Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Lockstep with Nature: A new bill will help veterans find healing outside

Veteran Maury Argento
Photo by 
Bhavya Thyagarajan Photography

United States Army veteran Maury Argento prefers to get her exercise outside.

Sometimes she hikes with her family, but more often than not this businesswoman and mom climbs San Francisco’s hills and outdoor stairways with her two dogs and infant child. Captain Argento has been out of the military for nearly 15 years, after having served for six years with specializations in weapons of mass destruction and communications.

Primarily stationed in Germany, she was also deployed to a Saudi Arabia combat zone for a time, and after returning to civilian life was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. “I was on medication, but the most effective thing for me has always been exercise and being outdoors. I suffer substantially if I don’t get exercise and get outside,” she said.

Argento found her way outdoors for healing, but not all vets do. More of them may be following in her footsteps, however, thanks to the Accelerating Veterans Recovery Outdoors (AVRO) Act.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Imperiled Islands of the San Francisco Bay

Climate change and sea level rise are not going away, even as we cope with everything else. That is why, when my editor Alec MacDonald and I discussed topics for the October/November issue of Bay Area Monitor, we settled on the effects of sea-level rise on the islands in the San Francisco Bay islands that I love, either those we all visit like Angel Island, or those we look at from afar by land or ferry, knowing they are vital habitat for birds.

There is no topic more important than climate change. We need to see it and think about it. We need to make changes now for our kids, our grandkids, and all the young adults who feel adrift about their future.

That's why I wanted to write about the islands in the bay and how they will be affected by sea-level rise. This is home for us and we need to look at the changes that are coming with eyes wide open. Read the article here.

Photo courtesy of the Angel Island Conservancy.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Jack London and his wife Charmian roam the San Francisco Bay circa 1910

Jack London aboard the Roamer. Courtesy of The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.
Jack London was known for his world adventures, but his training ground — and lifelong love — was the San Francisco Bay. As a boy he learned to sail a skiff in the Oakland Estuary, and at sixteen he ran with the oyster pirates before jumping ship to crew for the California Fish Patrol. London wrote The Sea Wolf aboard a sailboat purchased from the sale of Call of the Wild, and in his final years he and his wife, Charmian, spent a month a year exploring and feasting on the bay and in the Delta

"Always I come back to the sea,” wrote London. “In my case it is usually [the] San Francisco Bay, than which no lustier, tougher sheet of water can be found for small-boat sailing.”*

One of the primary sources for my book in progress about Jack London and the San Francisco Bay is Charmian Kittridge London's diaries. To coincide with the publication of the first full-length biography of Charmian London (written by friend and colleague Iris Jamahl Dunkle), I wrote an article for Estuary News about Jack and Charmian's explorations of the bay from 1910-1914.

Read my article in Estuary News here.

* London, Jack, "The Joy of Small-boat Sailing," Country Life in America, August 1, 1912.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Waves of grain

During the COVID-19 pandemic, baking has become a popular and passionate pastime for countless people sheltering in place. They might not be aware, however, that every time they measure out another cup of flour, they have a chance to support California agriculture.

Hourani wheat grown by Honoré Farm and Mill at HomeFarm in Healdsburg.
(Photo courtesy of 
Honoré Farm and Mill)

For this article in the Bay Area Monitor I interviewed three California farmers who grow wheat for bread making:

  • Fritz Durst of Tule Farms is a fifth-generation farmer with a large grain-growing operation about 90 miles northeast of San Francisco.
  • Frog Hollow Farm in Brentwood planted white Sonora wheat flour on land slated for a new nectarine orchard this year. Sonora wheat is a heritage grain with a two-hundred-year history in the Americas.
  • Honoré Farm & Mill also grows organic wheat, but they have a higher calling: to re-connect people to land and community.
I had fun writing this piece and learned a ton. As Elizabeth DeRuff, president and agricultural chaplain of Honoré Farm and Mill told me, "Wheat is an unbelievable topic!"

Right she is!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Happy 50th Earth Day!

“There is a new level of emotional intensity now that climate change has gone from a distant threat to a clear and present danger,” said Sierra magazine editor Jason Mark of the young people who took to the streets last year for the climate strike. “They’re pissed off — there’s no other way to characterize it. Young people feel like their very future, if not their current present, is on the line.”

Mark was one of my interviewees for "Earth Day at 50: Mulling the Blue Marble's Next Half Century," a piece I wrote for the Bay Area Monitor to mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

I asked several noted environmentalists working in different fields — U.S. Forest Service filmmaker Steve Dunsky, author Mary Ellen Hannibal, editor and urban farmer Mark, and Ph.D. candidate C.N.E. Corbin — about the history and importance of Earth Day, and the role it might play in the next 50 years.

“Earth Day is a timeout to consider our fundamental reliance on earth and its natural systems, and then to consider what we can do individually, or ideally collectively, to safeguard those systems,” said Mark.

Happy Earth Day, a day to appreciate our Blue Marble and what we can do to protect it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Time Travel on the San Francisco Bay

Few boats on the San Francisco Bay can claim to be time machines, but that’s just how East Bay Yesterday podcaster Liam O’Donoghue, tour guide of the Oakland and Richmond historical waterfronts, views the Pacific Pearl.

Dave and Aleta George on Fish Emeryville's Pacific Pearl in the
Oakland Estuary.
“In day-to-day life we look at the world in a three-dimensional view,” he says, “but when you know history, you can look at it through four dimensions because you can see into the past using your imagination.”

O'Donoghue has been leading historical tours of the East Bay waterfronts with Fish Emeryville. Although the tours have been cancelled for now due to the coronavirus, you can engage in some arm-chair travel on the bay by reading my article in Estuary News--and stick a pin in it for when the tours start up again!

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Whose space? Our space! Voicing democracy on the public commons

“Public space, by its very nature and construct, is the neutral common ground that we the people own and fund collectively,” said Nidhi Gulati at Project for Public Spaces, a nonprofit that creates community-based public places. “It’s the most rightful place for us to occupy as members of a civil society to express our opinions.”

Read my latest for the Bay Area Monitor in which I interview Bay Area Women's March organizers and discuss civic open spaces as places for the citizenry to exercise their First Amendment Rights.

Photo by Aleta George taken at Women's March Contra Costa

This article appears in the  League Centennial Special Edition of the Bay Area Monitor, a publication of the League of Women Voters of the Bay Area.