Talks: Ecology / 2012-2014

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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 the Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics at 518 Valencia Street in 2012, 2013, and 2014.

November 5, 2014

Trees and History

Jared Farmer presents his book Trees in Paradise, reading California history through Redwoods/Sequoias, Palms, Citrus, and Eucalyptus. He is joined by Craig Dawson of the Sutro Stewards, a group dedicated to untangling San Francisco’s most fraught forest atop Mt. Sutro. The presentations focused heavily on Eucalyptus and the curious stories and controversies that swirl around that iconic tree.

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September 10, 2014

The Evolving Eastern Shoreline

Shaping San Francisco's Chris Carlsson provides an historic tour of the eastern shoreline from its days as tidal mudflats and open sewers crisscrossed by piers and wharves to its new incarnation as a site of ecological restoration and recreation. Anthony Khalil of Literacy for Environmental Justice (LEJ) offers a special look at creating a revitalized Candlestick shoreline including habitat restoration and community engagement, while interpreting the wonders of the Franciscan bioregion’s ecology and biodiversity.

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May 14, 2014

Political Economy of Bees

The plight of pollinators - in particular the honey bee - under the combined stresses of capital and empire, is considered from an unusual perspective. Jake Kosek, a farmer, radical geographer, and apiarist, discusses his researches into 'political entomology', specifically the use of bees as material and metaphor by the US military (foraging for landmines, anti-terrorism weapons).

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May 7, 2014

Dogs, Density, and Natural Areas

Join us for a moderated panel about the issues associated with human density and respectful dog ownership in San Francisco. After decades of looking the other way, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is proposing to limit off-leash activity to select portions of its lands. Commercial dog walkers and some animal rights groups are opposing this change, and have threatened the extreme measure of dismantling the national park altogether. In 1977/8, Harvey Milk put forth a city ordinance dubbed the ‘pooper scooper law,’ for which he didn't want to put anyone in jail or fine them, but set out to clean up parks through peer pressure and friendly enforcement. Is it again time for San Franciscans to adopt a new paradigm for how we behave with respect to dogs in our natural areas? With Amber Hasselbring of Nature in the City; Brent Plater of Wild Equity Institute, Dominik Mosur, and moderated by Jason Mark of the Earth Island Institute. Co-sponsored by Nature in the City.

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April 9, 2014

Urban Farming and Urban Nature: Are We Competing or Cooperating?

In a recent Earth Island Journal interview, Michael Pollan notes a question underlying his work, "How do you think through this relationship in the messy places where nature and culture have to engage with one another?" As urban dwellers, how do we decide what to do with our open spaces, our sidewalks, our schoolyards, our vacant lots? Do we use them to grow food, tend natives, allow wild spaces to exist? These choices require different skill bases (growing soil vs. tending natives, as an example) and are also mutually supportive. With most available lots being gobbled up by housing developers, and the dismantling of Hayes Valley Farm and the Free Farm, where are we with urban ag efforts, and relative to our butterfly and insect population? Nature in the City's Amber Hasselbring, Jay Rosenberg (of the former Hayes Valley Farm, now with 49 Farms), Hannah Shulman (SF's Urban Agriculture Program coordinator), Severine von Tscharner Fleming(Greenhorns), and Nik Bertulis (SF Art Institute) lead a lively discussion. Co-sponsored by Nature in the City.

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March 12, 2014

Saltworks and Shorelines: a Visual and Social History of the San Francisco Bay

Cris Benton has used kite photography to document the surprisingly beautiful “saltscapes” of the South Bay, while Matthew Booker’s Down By the Bay is one of the best recent histories of the long, complicated, and contradictory relationship of urbanizing humans and the amazing inland estuary we enjoy as the Bay.

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February 26, 2014

Design Radicals: Berkeley 1960s and Today

As San Francisco emerged as the hub of counterculture pilgrimage routes in the late-1960s, radical politics and social change galvanized design ideals in Berkeley. The East Bay became the site of bold experiments in graphic arts, environmental activism, handcraft pedagogy, and self-build technologies. Fast forward to 2011 and the creation of the local hub PLACE for Sustainable Living in Oakland, a center linking our radical past to the resilient future, as it fosters many of the same ideals. Greg Castillo and Sabrina Richard, the co-curators of Design Radicals: Berkeley in the '60s - an exhibition at UC Berkeley planned for the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement in the Fall of 2014 - discuss artifacts and initiatives that document a decade of environmental design innovation. They are joined by Jonathan Youtt, catalyst for the creation of the public-serving experiential learning center, PLACE, to bring us up to the present.

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February 5, 2014

Becoming a Biodiversity City

As Biophilic Cities are becoming a part of international consciousness, urban spaces are adding green roofs and elevated walking paths that traverse urban canopies, even daylighting creeks. How does San Francisco fit into all this? Could San Francisco could become a City of Biodiversity? Do we use the great work done by other cities as inspiration to celebrate our relationship with the natural world, or in friendly competition with them to become the “greenest”? How can San Franciscans better celebrate the vast array of biodiversity, ecological activism, and collective natural history knowledge among us? With Ali Sant of Studio for Urban Projects, Elizabeth Creely a writer whose work looks at restoration, herbicides, and biodiversity, and others TBA. Co-sponsored by Nature in the City.

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October 30, 2013

Liberation Biology

Who are we, and what is our place in the world of the living? The Modern Synthesis of Biology, much of it conceived and incubated in the San Francisco Bay Area, has become a conceptual steel trap dictating much of what we do not only with our ecosystems, but also with our economy, our politics and our very selves. Liberation Biology proposes a critical approach to the deep roots of our understanding of the living. Based on both an exhumation of forgotten knowledge and on radically transformative new experimental evidence, Liberation Biology puts to rest many preconceptions of the Modern Synthesis, while recasting questions that may lead us to a world we may not only survive, but also desire. With Ignacio Chapela and Ali Bektaş

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May 22, 2013

Talking About Ecology and Science in Public

Join a challenging conversation some have dubbed "environmental communications in the Anthropocene" to discuss the problems with presenting complex ecological information publicly. Rose Aguilar from KALW's Your Call radio, Brent Plater of the Wild Equity Institute, and environmental scientist and climate change activist Azibuike Akaba discuss and debate issues of scientific literacy, critical thinking, basic education, attention spans, buzzwords, guest selection, framing and definition of scientific issues, overcoming propaganda and simplistic jargon, and much more!

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March 27, 2013

Designing Resilient Landscapes: What history teaches us about San Francisco and the Bay-Delta Estuary

Ruth Askevold and Robin Grossinger from the San Francisco Estuary Institute will present their amazing historical maps and discuss their groundbreaking work in "forensic ecology," which is contributing to restoration efforts and galvanizing public attitudes around the Bay. Derek Hitchcock will also join the conversation to discuss current restoration efforts he is engaged in on the Napa River, as well as contextualizing the Napa with the larger watersheds that feed the Delta and Bay.

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January 16, 2013

The Tigers of Market Street: Butterfly Habitat along a Busy Urban Corridor

Not long after the transit tunnels of Muni and Bart went in below Market Street in the '70s, a San Franciscan butterfly — the Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) discovered an ecosystem freshly lined with one of its larval food, or host trees: the London Plane sycamore (Plantanus acerifolia). Males fly among the treetops, females lay eggs on the leaves, caterpillars feed and pupate, and adult butterflies emerge. This creature's entire lifecycle has played out for years unheralded by the thousands who walk below this canopy daily. As the city re-imagines our grandest boulevard with the Better Market Street Project, join us for this evening and learn about a creature that seems to be keeping up in this human-altered landscape. Add your two cents to this fascinating convergence of city coexistence. Lepidopterists and artists Amber Hasselbring and Liam O'Brien will "tell the tale of a swallow-tail" and propose novel ideas of connecting our two species.

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December 5, 2012

Planning 4th Street: Remaking a San Francisco Corridor

Josh Switzky, Steve Wertheim, John Elberling and others will come together to look at the effort to redesign and rethink the 4th Street corridor as it becomes the new north-south subway route. New public spaces are being opened in the many underutilized alleys, while the demographic shifts of SOMA continue apace.

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August 28, 2012

The Next Step in Sustainability

Are you an Activist? Naturalist? Educator? …or just curious? Want to learn about increasing habitat for local species? …transformative programs and projects? …Service learning for kids of all ages? …native plants, gardening, urban sustainability? Join us for an old-fashioned Teach-In: Greening San Francisco: Wild Corridors and Guerrilla Gardens, from the Bay to Ocean Beach.

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May 23, 2012

What Are Our Streets For?

Emerging visions for public thoroughfares challenge the 20th century paradigm of automobile-centric streets. Pedestrians, bicyclists, and wild critters are all demanding their own ways to cross the city. San Francisco's "Green Connections" project seeks to integrate these new visions into San Francisco's urban grid. Join Andy Thornley (SF Bike Coalition), Peter Brastow (Nature in the City), Elizabeth Stampe (Walk SF), and the SF Planning Dept.'s Kearstin Dischinger to critically evalute these competing and complementary visions of a reconfigured San Francisco.

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