Shaping San Francisco hosts Public Talks on a variety of topics on Wednesday nights, about 18 times a year. One recurrent theme has been Ecology and urban nature. Here are the Talks we held at CounterPULSE at 1310 Mission Street in 2006 and 2007.
November 28, 2007 Food Security & Urban Agriculture Our food system is being refashioned by new urban farmers, farmers markets, and community-supported agriculture, and importantly, by savvy shoppers who demand local, organic, and safe food. Still, food security is tenuous for too many of our neighbors. Hear from Amy Franceschini about Victory Gardens, past and present; Willow Rosenthal with the story of City Slicker Farms; and Jason Mark, editor of Earth Island Journal, about the work of Alemany Farm.
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October 24, 2007 New Politics for Green Cities
This panel represents a wide swath of perspectives on the urban environment, from open space, biodiversity, global warming, fresh water, street design and transit choices, urban farming... Local historian Dick Walker, author of The City and the Country; Kearstin Krehbiel of the San Francisco Parks Trust; Peter Brastow, executive director of Nature in the City; and Kearstin Dischinger of the Bike Kitchen come together to discuss the historic roots of our current ecological politics, and how they have shaped today's environment and the questions we face now.
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September 26, 2007 San Francisco Water Sources
Most of San Francisco's water is supplied by the Tuolumne River, which flows through a series of reservoirs, aqueducts, and tunnels to our taps. These facilities are being rebuilt now, along with yet another massively expensive sewer system overhaul. Local water historian Joel Pomerantz and ecology activist Ruth Gravanis join with Spreck Rosenkrans of the Environmental Defense Fund in a look at our wet infrastructure and the possibilities of a radically different relationship to our local water supplies, including our aquifer, creeks, and rainfall.
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The Franciscan bioregion is home to several locally endemic butterfly species, such as the mission blue, which only lives on coastal bedrock ridgetops. Despite the revolutionary ecological changes on the San Francisco peninsula over the last 240 years, the City abounds with spectacular native biodiversity, and though like many insects, butterfly species have co-evolved with specific plants in an ecological coevolutionary dance over millions of years, a subset of our native butterflies have adapted to some non-native plants, including weeds. Barbara Deutsch, Deirdre Elmansoumi, Mia Monroe, and Liam O’Brien give an exhilarating and beautiful ride through this fascinating subject.
Grey Kolevzon and Chris Carlsson take you on a journey through the centuries-long process of land enclosure and its continuation with the replacement of subsistence agriculture in the global south by agribusiness export crops. With loss of land the movement of populations into cities starts, eventually leading to migration across borders too. Waves of immigrants have brought many different peoples' favorite foods to California, which slowly have merged into “California Cuisine.” Ironically—perhaps tragically—today’s immigrants very often work in the fields for agribusiness OR in the restaurants and hotels of SF, often in kitchens and food service sector... VIDEO CLIPS: 1) occupation strike in Paris at a McDonalds by largely African immigrant workers; 2) scene from Peter Watkins’ movie “La Commune” wherein a group of Algerians sits around a table talking about immigration and capital--in 1871!
Listen as Amy Meyer reveals the politics of national park conservation. If not for the heroic efforts of Amy Meyer, essentially the “godmother” of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), and other environmental activists, we might not have a GGNRA today. Amy's book with co-author Randy Delehanty entitled, New Guardians for the Golden Gate: How America Got a Great National Park, provides exquisite details of the social and political context for the creation of our local urban ecological jewel, which is internationally important.
Integrating urban life with local nature, biodiversity, and resources is the challenge of our time. New and veteran activists Peter Berg of Green City Project/ Planet Drum, Peter Brastow of Nature in the City, Bonnie Sherk of A Living Library, Brian Holland of Bay Localize, and Raquel Rivera-Pinderhughes of the Urban Studies Department at San Francisco State University share visions, strategies, and how they are laying the foundation for a truly Green City.
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This remarkable and still endangered ecological treasure is the natural southern boundary of San Francisco. The curious cultural and ecological histories that intersect on this mountain are shared by representatives of San Bruno Mountain Watch and Heart of the Mountain, revisiting a quarter century of grassroots activism and presenting their current work to save the mountain.
San Francisco’s rich biodiversity is not well known, yet. In fact, many San Franciscans have been involved in preservation and restoration of native habitats for the past decades. Jim McKissock, Chris Giorni, and Josiah Clark highlight a heroic effort to restore native frogs to San Francisco.
Recycling and anti-toxics activists Andy Pugni of HANC Recycling and Erica Swinney of Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice discuss the politics of waste. How do we make meaningful change with respect to the growing mountains of waste? From the ever increasing amounts of garbage we create, to poisoned ground water and numerous toxic waste sites, we have our work cut out for us. Also includes an excerpt from the documentary “Gone Tomorrow.”
Take an historical look at San Francisco Bay, our region’s most impacted and continuously threatened natural resource. Highlighting the time before European colonization, how it changed over the last 160 years, and the Save the Bay citizens’ movement, listen and imagine how the Bay might evolve, including the current efforts for ecological restoration.
Can urban food production be compatible with urban native habitat conservation and restoration? What are the limits and advantages of systematic effort to grow food within the City? What should our relationship be to local gardening, regional Community-Supported Agriculture, and Slow Food?
Part 1 features Chris Carlsson and Raquel Rivera-Pinderhughes. Part 2 features Antonio Roman-Alcalá of Alemany Farm and Brahm Ahmadi of the People's Grocery. Part 3 features author Margit Roos-Collins (“Flavors of Home”), Lane Cunningham, and some Q&A and discussion with the audience.
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Going back to the Victory Gardens of WWII, San Franciscans have long organized to get more control over their food supplies. Jesse Drew, author of Call Any Vegetable, and Christopher Cook, author of Diet for a Dead Planet, discuss recent examples including the People’s Food System, the expansion of Farmers’ Markets in the City, and the community garden movement.
Kat Steele, founder of the Urban Permaculture Guild; Doug Biggs, community resources director of the Alameda Point Collaborative; Ruth Gravanis, coordinator of the Treasure Island wetlands project; and Arthur Feinstein, chair of the SF Bay Joint Venture, address cleaning up after the military, restoring and remaking the Presidio, and discuss how community activists are fighting over the future of Hunters’ Point, and highlight restoration activity by permaculturists from the Alameda Naval Air Station.
Part 1 features Ruth Gravanis and Arthur Feinstein. Part 2 features Arthur Feinstein, Doug Biggs, and Kat Steele.
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Tom Athanasiou of Eco-Equity and author of Divided Planet, Sherlina Nager of Literacy for Environmental Justice, Peter Davidson, UCSF director of UFO project, and Chris Carlsson, Shaping San Francisco co-director, discuss earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, epidemic flu, chronic disease, etc. within the frame of a community response based on mutual aid, cooperation, and a renewed commitment to a public health infrastructure.
Part 1 features Tom Athanasiou and Chris Carlsson. Part 2 features Sherlina Nager who works in San Francisco's Bayview/Hunter's Point. She speaks to the class divisions that mean so-called "natural" disasters impact different populations in radically different ways. She describes environmental justice as a movement that is led by communities of color against environmental racism, and the goal is to set up sustainable, self-determined and just communities, dating back to 1982 or so. Part 3 features Chris Carlsson and Peter Davidson. Part 4 features audience Q&A following the discussion of the topic.
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Nature in the City’s Peter Brastow and long-time ecological activist Ruth Gravanis present a comprehensive overview of San Francisco’s natural environment, discussing the less-than-obvious meanings of the concept of “nature” within the urban environment.
Local photographer and photo archivist Greg Gaar specializes in the natural areas of San Francisco such as sand dunes, hilltops, wildflowers and more. Listen to him narrate a slideshow tour of San Francisco before it was paved over and turned into a city.