All posts tagged: environment

urban farmers san ramon harvest

The Urban Farmers Broaden Harvest

Some good grows from crisis. The idea for The Urban Farmers sprang up in the wake of the 2008 economic crash when Siamack Sioshansi’s son and his college roommate returned home to find their jobs as YMCA counselors eliminated. They decided to design a social justice project. To learn about their mission and how it’s evolved, I joined Siamack for a harvesting in San Ramon where he guides Boys Team Charity Lamorinda League in shaking down some trees. He tells the story: Social justice and environmental justice are one and the same. If someone says, I want to feed this group, but I’m going to import food, if they are destroying the environment, the first victims of that action are the poor. So environmental stewardship was a big part of the project. We asked, why don’t we plant a garden in people’s backyards, give them a basket of food, and donate the rest to people that need it? I was worried that nobody would let us in. The boys wrote a business plan, and what …

Home for John Muir’s Outdoor Mind

The last time I passed through the entrance at John Muir National Historic Site, I was in fifth grade. Admittedly, our overnight trip as a class, a co-ed sleepover, had us less interested in the legendary figure than in pre-teen pranks. My worry, then as now, was where to find the bathroom in the middle of the night. Despite these distractions, I left with an admiration for Muir, a Santa Claus of the parks. My feelings would grow as I earned my Junior Ranger patch in Yosemite that summer. Wandering through the rooms of his grand Victorian, I see that face everywhere. Muir appears a kind of holy man, a seeker who after a time in the isolated wilds of Yosemite Valley came to stay in one place to ranch, live a family life, and write. And fight. From the “scribble room” upstairs, Muir created the intellectual and emotional grounds for an environmental movement that would span the continent and beyond. While he took trips to the wilderness, including his beloved Sierras and Alaska, he …

Gathering to Build a Resilient Bay Area

In the second of our two-part interview with Bay Localize, we learn more about its definition of resilience and about upcoming action to build resilient communities. (Kirsten Schwind) The next iteration of our tools is the Map your Future Toolkit. That is mapping the future of your community but also mapping your personal future. We designed it with youth groups, thinking that if we can make something with youth, especially at-risk youth, then we can design something that’s fun and interesting and engaging for anyone. We’re going to start with our more difficult audiences, and if they like it, then the adults will be fine, too. That is the re-imagining your community as well, it is an asset mapping program and it lays out certain ways for people to go into their community and collect information on how people are already resilient on different levels. We’re defining resilience as: 1) Safe and Stable Homes. Having safety in your home, structural safety (is it going to collapse, come down in flood), social and economic safety (will …

bay localize climate change bay area

Climate Change, the Bay and Resilience

Bay Localize is celebrating ten years of growing community resilience to climate and economic instability. From learning about its mission to its impact in one decade, I recognized Bay Localize goes big. I met with Co-founder and Senior Strategist Kirsten Schwind for an informal talk about the group’s roots and its future.  This is the first of two parts. A Vision: (Schwind) We were looking at the big picture – what we need to confront climate change. Part of it is to bring our economies back home. Also, as climate change hits, we need to be able to withstand more and more natural disasters with strong communities that can take care of themselves. We began with a white paper on how to re-localize the Bay Area, and a number of cities signed on to the principles of that paper. Departments in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland all signed on. The Tools: We were both thought leaders in imagining what we need in economies and in our societies, but we were also going to have hands-on …

john muir land trust conservation

Land Conservation Playbook

A few weeks ago, driving back to the Bay from Sacramento, I took in the passing hills and wetlands and thought…things could be worse.  Years ago, as developers began tearing into the land and building shopping outlets and tract housing on I-80, I doubted any patch of land would survive. Despite the build-up, though, some areas are more beautiful than ever, thanks to land trusts surrounding that stretch of highway. This conservation thing doesn’t just happen. Savvy groups protect land and its resources, including water, through persistent fundraising and advocacy. John Muir Land Trust, formerly Muir Heritage Land Trust recently unveiled its Saving Contra Costa campaign to raise $25 million. “We have already protected over 2,000 acres of prime Contra Costa open space that would have otherwise been developed. With this campaign, we aim to more than double that number,” said Linus Eukel, Executive Director of JMLT. The campaign began with efforts to acquire a 44-acre property called West Hills Farm, immediately adjacent to the Mount Wanda section of the John Muir National Historic Site …

Choo-Choo, Boom-Boom

The rail trestle between the John Muir House and Mount Wanda (named after his daughter) glows at sunset. Not as quaint as a covered bridge, the elevated line shines gold and rust and reminds me of the old West. Its likeness appears in murals around tiny Martinez. An icon, a landmark, and one that may blast us to high heaven. The rail line running through Martinez, Richmond, El Cerrito, Berkeley, Oakland and all points down to San Luis Obispo has become a blast zone. A local landlord says I’m alarmist. But after hearing Andres Soto of Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) run through the dangers of crude-by-rail, I feel justified in my fear. Presenting to a citizens’ gathering in Concord, Soto explained the risks of transporting highly volatile crude oil from North Dakota and Alberta in ill-equipped rail cars, over shifting rail lines. Soto, a native of Richmond, a saxophonist and grandfather of four, began his talk in front of an image from hell. The audience recognized the explosion as the 2013 destruction of …

Amid Liminal Influence

Often, I find myself wondering how the symphony of each moment, situation, biophysical and other conditions have shaped me into who I am today.  Particularly, I am curious about the “anxiety of influence,” a concept reviewed by contemporary literary critic Harold Bloom, whose central thesis was that poets in their creative work are often hindered by the ambiguous relationship they maintain with their precursors.  In his book “Anxiety of Influence” Bloom argues that in order truly to be an original poet, it is necessary to rid oneself of the influence derived from the works of the poets who came before.  He then offers six pathways to achieve this goal. How is Bloom’s concept applicable to the influence that our immediate environment exerts on us continuously?  Where does the scepter of discrimination draw a line between my boundaries and the other’s, the inner from the outer?  And what should be the guiding principle for choosing what to keep and what to discard or leave unnoticed?  Does influence stop at hindering or can it usurp the complete …

Shorelines

Life on the Carquinez Strait cuts through past and present. Jack London worked these waters. Joe DiMaggio grew up here. At this northern end of the Bay, I’m surrounded by park lands – national, state and our treasured East Bay Regional Parks, the largest regional parks district in the country. I’m Haleh. Let’s go exploring. (video)    

Theatre of Dreams

I wake my way into the pulsing world, morphing, mesmerizing, still.  At times I open my eyes. Chasing contours, colors and form, I spin the yarn into a stage for dreams and artifacts.  I seek the glistening divide between now and \ then, running a maze of infinite f p s.  Dreams shape me.