As I write this on Thanksgiving weekend, I have many things to be grateful for. For example: On Thanksgiving morning, I watched a huge raft of cormorants take off from the surface of the Bay in front of Angel Island, swirl around in the air, and then form a pulsating river that rocketed out toward the Golden Gate, taking almost two minutes to pass by. I’m thankful for the poetry of this scene, and for the fact that I live in a place where such a scene is possible.
But behind such moments and places of great beauty, several dark clouds are gathering. One of those clouds is the impending closure of up to 70 state parks. It’s hard not to take this personally: Within the past month I’ve delighted in the profusion of late season butterflies at Sugarloaf State Park in Sonoma and marveled at the prodigious number of moon jellyfish in the waters of Tomales Bay State Park, two of the 18 Bay Area parks selected for closure.
It’s difficult to fathom the lack of vision and generosity behind the “no new taxes” crowd’s willingness to abandon such gems and the opportunities they provide for learning, recreation, and sheer wonderment. The putative $22 million in annual savings from these closures amounts to 60 cents a year for each California resident, a paltry price for universal access to such beautiful places.
Yet plenty of other deserving causes are standing in line, from services for the disabled to the state university system, all hoping for a return to a barely tolerable status quo. Fortunately, as we discuss in this issue, there are a number of independent citizen initiatives to keep parks open through volunteer efforts. These are no substitute for professional management, yet they offer both a bridge to an as-yet-undetermined return to budgetary sanity and a testament to people’s strong attachment to “their” parks.
The other cloud on the horizon–climate change–is not so amenable to volunteer effort. According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Energy, when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the planet is marching in exactly the wrong direction, with an increase of 6 percent in 2010. National and international efforts to curb emissions and put a price on carbon are at a standstill.
So those determined to do something about climate change have begun to switch much of their focus from mitigation (efforts to stop global warming) to adaptation (figuring out how to prepare for it). And many have also shifted focus from the national to the local level, where their efforts can gain traction and produce results. The Bay Area–with its traditions of environmental action and scientific research–is in the forefront, and Bay Nature is pleased to join in these efforts, inaugurating in this issue regular coverage of local climate change research and adaptation projects. Our goal is not to alarm you–you’re already aware of the threat–but rather to let you know about some exciting and significant work in this arena.
One of the most dramatic local impacts of climate change will be the projected two- to five-foot rise in the water level of San Francisco Bay by the end of this century.
It turns out that one of our best tools for meeting this sea level rise challenge just might be those wetlands around the Bay that we’ve been restoring for the past two decades. Though the initial objective was stewardship of endangered species and protection of habitat, it turns out that “soft” infrastructure (like a healthy marsh) is better able to dampen the effects of flooding and storm surges than hard levees or seawalls. And so we begin our climate change coverage with a study examining how one wetland in Marin is responding to the rising tides. That study, by the way, is being conducted by state and federal agencies supported by our tax dollars. Money well spent, I believe. I imagine the cormorants would agree.
P.S. A big thanks to the hundreds of you who donated to our year-end appeal. Bay Nature is able to keep publishing a high-quality print magazine due in large part to readers who contribute funds above and beyond the price of subscription. Now there’s another way you can support our work: Come to our first annual fundraising dinner on Thursday, Feb. 9, at the beautiful Brazilian Room in Tilden Park (Berkeley). The event will include a wonderful dinner of local foods and wine; a presentation by renowned Bay Area nature photographer Suzi Eszterhas, featuring her extraordinary and intimate photos of marine mammals; and the three winners of our annual Local Hero awards. Please join us. Learn more>