As we were considering articles for our fifth anniversary issue, which you are now holding in your hands, David Rains Wallace’s story proposal about early European naturalists visiting the Bay Area seemed very appropriate, given that those men (and they were all men at that time) represent the beginnings of the tradition of inquiry that inspired Bay Nature.
Around the same time, we were discussing the future of our series about (and funded by) the East Bay Regional Park District. After three years of exploring park habitats, it seemed time to look at the district’s “cultural resources,” the physical manifestations of humans’ interactions with their natural surroundings. And we wanted to start at the beginning, looking at how the first humans to live here managed the area’s abundant natural resources over millennia. The resulting article by Beverly Ortiz focuses on another—and very different—tradition of understanding the natural world, one that Bay Nature also aspires to reflect in its pages.
It has been thought-provoking to work on both articles at the same time, because of the differences in how these two civilizations related to the natural world. The first European naturalists to visit the Bay Area—Menzies, Chamisso, Douglas—were part of a very early generation of naturalists, children of a restless Age of Discovery, men who traveled around the world in great discomfort, collecting specimens to be cataloged and classified in the recently developed Linnaean system. While their primary motivation may have been intellectual curiosity, the sponsors of the voyages they undertook were likely more interested in finding resources to exploit for financial gain.
On the other hand, the native Ohlone, Miwok, and other tribal groups had been here for some 10,000 years, maintaining a remarkably stable way of life based on intricate and highly evolved relationships—both material and spiritual—with a variety of plants and animals whose existence they not only respected but nurtured.
Of course, we know whose way of seeing the natural world has dominated in the short run. But we also know that, in the not-so-long run, we need to learn to take better care of our natural surroundings. In publishing Bay Nature, we aim to cultivate both the intellectual curiosity of the early naturalists and Native peoples’ deep sense of respect for and connection with the natural world.
With the Bay Area’s legacy of protected open space, its active conservation community, its research institutions, its diverse and tolerant population—including the descendants of the original inhabitants—we have the necessary elements for creating a healthy human society living side by side with a healthy natural environment.
We are proud that in its first five years, Bay Nature has become one of those elements contributing to this goal. We ask you to continue nourishing us with your ideas, your curiosity, and your subscriptions as we move to the next stage of our mission to both inform and inspire you.
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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.