In the beginning this blog was centered on San Francisco parks and open space issues with special emphasis on natural areas and natural history. Over time it began to range into other areas and topics. As you can see, it is eclectic, as I interlace it with topics of interest to me.

I welcome feedback: just click this link to reach me.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Don't be yourself. Be someone a little nicer. -Mignon McLaughlin, journalist and author
“Etiquette requires us to admire the human race.”    Mark Twain
Often it does seem a pity that Noah and his party did not miss the boat.  

     Mark Twain

1.   WALC needs chaperones for high school students
2.   Crowd-sourcing experiment collecting food data around the world
3.   FoodBank of America
4.   Visioning the Southeast Waterfront Aug 30
5.   Green San Francisco Teach-In Aug 28
6.   Feedback:  SF VetsAdmin Hospital DEIR/Olmsted, Hall vision for GGP
7.   Yet another attack on CEQA turned back
8.   Progressives for Immigration Reform tackling this knotty problem
9.   SciAm: jaguars win protection/Are wind turbines getting more bird and bat-friendly?
10. Survey of same-sex love in American portraiture
11.  Whet your Curiosity/Earth from Mars

1.  Wilderness and Arts Literacy Collaborative

WALC at Downtown High School is currently seeking chaperones for the Fall 2012 semester. If you are interested in joining us on one or more trips, or if you know someone who might like to volunteer, please let us know. Feel free to forward this email widely; we are really trying to expand our pool of volunteers this year. Our schedule is below.  (Omitted here, JS)

This semester, we are teaching our students about evolution by focusing on case studies of Northern California wildlife and their adaptations to their habitats. It is a unique way to make the study of evolution rich, accessible, and deeply connected to the natural world.

Chaperone duties include driving an 8-passenger van from DHS to the site and back again, hiking with the kids (usually at the back of the "sandwich"), supervising students during the trip, and helping them with assignments if needed. Lunch is provided. There are two teachers on every trip, so the most important part is driving; we respect your comfort levels in terms of engaging in supervision, lessons and activities. 

Thank you for supporting WALC! Without volunteer chaperones, we would not be able to offer our students the opportunity to connect with nature and wildlife on such a wide variety of field studies.

So Our Words Can Join Our Wisdom
Cynthia Dominguez
Balboa High School

We will write poems
because we feel the
warmth of the sun
that lets us wander
Our eyes become
We will write poems
because we want to
Escape the world we
live in
escape televisions
radios, phones, pagers
Enter a world of
trees, animals
We want to feel
the warmth of our

We will write poems
to release
our souls
receive new ones
as if to be baptized
We become new people
not only in appearance
but in
feelings and

We will become
our perceptions of nature
become closer to
our surroundings
What we think of the trees...
we will become
What we think of the animals...
we will become

We will write poems
so our words can join
our wisdom
Our thoughts
The Ground we walk
speaks back to us
We listen to it
Write what we


2.  Cost of - crowdsourcing experiment

On Aug 24, 2012, at 12:09 PM, Christopher Werby wrote:
Hi Jake,  Let me start with a big thank you -- I have been reading your news letters for years now. There's always a little something in there that I find just right! I've shared your articles with many friends and colleagues -- thank you!

And, until now, I've never written with an announcement or news of my own. But my sons are working on a project that I think the readers of Nature News might find interesting: Cost of Chicken. [] The idea is to conduct a crowd-sourcing experiment collecting food data from around the world. Here is their description:

"We want to know the true cost of food — its price; the distance it traveled to get to our dinner tables; the people who grew it; the methods that were used to grow it; how it was produced; how good is it for us and for our environment. And we also want to know if there is food inequality — do some people have less access to good food then others? We noticed that some neighborhoods in the Bay Area where we live don’t have places that sell fresh produce! So for some people, it’s easy to buy high quality inexpensive food, and for others it’s almost impossible. That’s food inequality.
There’s also food insecurity — some people have to worry that they might not get enough to eat from day to day. Sometimes, it’s because they don’t have the money to buy food. Sometimes, it’s because there’s no food to buy.

Cost of Chicken project is about trying to find out where and why there’s food inequality and food insecurity. That’s why a crowdmap is a perfect fit for our project — it allows us to gather information from all over the world and it lets everyone see the data right away. Because it’s not just about learning about food inequality and insecurity, it’s also about trying to fix the problem. And to fix the problem, we need to understand it."

I hope you would share this with your readers -- I think education about food is important and it is fun to add data points to the map!

Thank you!  Olga

I will gladly post.  This sounds similar to projects I've heard about on such programs as NPR's Marketplace.  Perhaps after you've collected enough interesting information you might contact them and see if it's something Kai Ryssdal might be interested in including on the program.  JS

Olga Werby:  I hope that people who read your newsletter post some data -- the more data points, the more interesting data becomes, don't you think? And now with food prices going up, there will be a years' worth of previous data points to compare to. I really liked the information on the prices in the Northern Canada, for example.


3.  Food Bank of America:


4.  2012 Piero N. Patri Fellow Presentation: Visioning the Southeast Waterfront
Thursday, August 30, 2012, 6:00 p.m.

San Francisco expects a significant increase in waterfront visitors during America’s Cup 34 in 2013. This year’s Piero N. Patri fellow, Alexa Bush, has developed a program to engage visitors and neighbors with a visioning project about the San Francisco southeast waterfront. Drawing upon the findings of past Patri Fellowship projects she has spent the summer studying the history and development of the southeast waterfront and analyzing opportunities to increase public access and awareness to further San Francisco’s Blue Greenway projects, in order to create an informational, web-based, multi-media tool that serves to entice visitors and neighbors to better understand the potential future of the southeast waterfront.

Pier 1  The Embarcadero                                                           
San Francisco, CA 94111


5.  Hey Jake,
Just wanted to let you know that both Kevin Bayuk (Lift Business Coaching/Urban Permaculture Institute) and Liam O'Brien (Green Hairstreak Corridor Project) would be speaking at the Greening SF: wild corridors event.  If you could put those additions on your page I would be very thankful!  Matt

Green San Francisco Teach-In

Tuesday, August 28 * 7:30 PM
518 Valencia (at 16th)

Come on down to the Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics on Valencia Street to find out what Greening the City really means.


6.  Feedback

Janet Gawthrop:
Hi Jake,
I will definitely have a look at the DEIR for SFVA.  To whom and what e-mail address should I send comments?  If I'm sending them to the VA, is
there GGNRA volunteer I can cc on the copy?  I don't trust VA in general, and certainly I don't trust them to preserve any adverse comments to their plan.

Before I get into the DEIR, I venture my speculation that VA is proposing this expansion in the name of "patient service" or "modernizing
facilities".  So, pre-environmental comment, I'm going to throw out any premise of SFVA's sincerity in these supposed goals.  Do I sound bitter? Yes,
because my partner had experience with the Fort Miley facility for years, before he finally became old enough to qualify for MediCare.  Based on our
experience at Fort Miley, I can definitely confirm that it was the least-used but also one of the slowest emergency rooms I've ever been in.  On the
one or two visits when I was in the ER with my partner (past the waiting room area), I also noticed few patients and slow service.  Late 2011 was the
last time I took my partner to Fort Miley, so the underuse of this facility continued well into the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.  So, if SFVA
hands a line to SF environmentalists about how unpatriotic they are to deny a new, expanded facility to deserving servicemen, I'm their witness
if they need comments about how Fort Miley  could easily solve much of any "patient care" issues by in-house reform and far more efficient use
of their existing facilities.
I'm glad this item reached someone concerned, and one with direct experience.  Julie Burns <> is the contact.
Hi Jake, Yes, you can post my comments in feedback, as I saw for myself everything I wrote about Fort Miley ER.  I am not a veteran, and my partner has given up on trying to get medical services from SFVA, so there is nothing the VA can do to us.  I do feel it's important to exchange information. 

However, if anyone has questions concerning the efficacy (or lack thereof) concerning patient treatment, please forward them to me so I can run them past my partner and his current MD.  My own medical training is limited to a CPR course.

Gray Brechin (Re Golden Gate Park as parasitic):
Though I agree with you that the privatizers who have taken over the Parks Department and so much more have lost the large democratic vision that those such as Olmsted, Hall, and McLaren once had, your statement in the 8/11 issue that "Hall/Olmsted tried to create the illusion that you're in the country, far from cities and their pursuit of 'the arid business of dissipation'"  is actually a bit more problematic.

Recall that Olmsted in 1865 advised against building Golden Gate Park on the sand dunes of western San Francisco because of the vast amount of imported water that would be required to produce that favored illusion of the country. William Hammond Hall himself wrote in 1873 even as he got Golden Gate Park going that "Water is required for some large city, and forthwith an area many times its area is robbed of its rivulets and brooks — and its fertility —  to supply the demand, and the consequences are not seriously considered."

With a brief exception, the water to green the dunes came first from San Mateo County and then from the Tuolumne River, and the consequences of induced aridity elsewhere are still not seriously considered. The two giant windmills at the west end of the Park once tapped the river that flows under it. If San Francisco is serious about becoming more sustainable, can't they be used again?
I don't know exactly what Olmsted had in mind for GGP, but you must know better than I about his thinking in regard to appropriateness of cities vis-a-vis the land they're sited on.

Hall did use that exact phrase, and meant it.  Does that mean English style parks with lawns and all?  I think it does, at least to a large degree.  He obviously did not mean rolling sand dunes.  English style parks and gardens could be designed to give the illusion of being in a country; it did not necessarily mean being in the summer-dry California countryside.  I don't remember the context when I quoted Hall, but I believe it was in regard to all the developments in GGP--buildings, structures of various kinds, massive sports fields, etcetera. 

Olmsted wanted the park sited in the Van Ness area; it was well inland, had a more agreeable climate, and was easily accessible.  Water was probably a factor, but I don't know that it was his main objection.  Anyway, that's when he bowed out--"but here's my protege, Wm Hammond Hall."

As to the windmills tapping into the underground river--the park continued to, and, I believe still is, pumping from it.  The stream originates in the Mt Davidson-Mt Sutro area, was on the surface at Laguna Honda (Deep Lake), then went underground down 7th Av, turned left when it came to GGP, flows under the SF Botanical Gardens (Strybing, where there were at least four or more wells, most of which were still pumping while I was there 1970-1989, and for all I know they may still have an active well there).  They drilled a well somewhere around Elk Glen Lake, and the two windmills pumped from it.  I don't think the active windmill is pumping now, but not sure.  It's mostly for historic/visual interest.

Did I answer your questions/statements?


7.  Conservationists Beat Back Attack on CEQA

“Gut-and-Amend” approach to reform long-standing CA environmental law fails to clear Senate

Sacramento, CA – Conservation groups are hailing Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg for preventing a last-minute attempt to gut the California Environmental Quality Act from moving forward. State Senator Michael Rubio tried to sneak drastic changes to CEQA through the legislature using the infamous “gut-and-amend” procedure.

Senator Rubio’s legislation, known as SB 317, would have made comprehensive changes to CEQA without giving the legislature – and the public – an opportunity to explore what these changes would mean to environmental quality in the state.

“CEQA plays a crucial role in protecting the things that Californians value most: air and water quality, our state’s unique natural resources, and the right to meaningfully participate in land use decisions,” said Bruce Reznik, Executive Director of the Planning and Conservation League. “This underhanded attempt to make radical changes to this flagship law would have undercut these core values. I applaud our legislators for recognizing that CEQA reform must be done with care, and should not be rushed.”

A coalition of conservation groups, including the Planning and Conservation League, the California League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club California, and the National Resources Defense Council fought to stop the passage of SB 317. Organized labor and community groups from throughout the state also opposed the bill.

“We firmly believe that CEQA has more strengths than weaknesses,” continued Mr. Reznik. “But if the law is going to be reformed, it must be done through a process that invites ample public participation and includes a full legislative review. We look forward to working with legislators from both sides of the aisle to identify reforms that will address concerns about the law while maintaining its strong environmental protections.”

Senators Steinberg and Rubio indicated they intend to convene a group of stakeholders, including PCL, to discuss adjustments to CEQA in September.

About the Planning and Conservation League
For more than 40 years, the Planning and Conservation League has fought to develop a body of environmental laws for California that set the standard for the rest of the United States. PCL played a crucial role in the enactment of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), California’s landmark environmental law, in 1970. 

JS:  For those who aren't aware of the Planning & Conservation League--you should become acquainted with it.  It has been in the forefront of defenders and promoters of environmental issues for four decades.  It is particularly valuable now, when attempts to destroy environmental protections are burgeoning.  Attacks on CEQA--a citizen-enforced law, and a very valuable tool for the general public--formerly about once a decade and mostly by Republicans, are now annual affairs, and have been attracting Democratic as well as Republican votes as pressure to create jobs and streamline processes keep growing.  Rather than look for constructive solutions, the pols look to take the easy way out.  It's groups like PCL that stop them; however, you can't count on being victorious every time.  You might consider becoming a member of PCL.


8.  Hello Mr. Sigg,

Greetings from the Front Range of Colorado.

Progressives for Immigration Reform, a group I help lead, recently launched a major new project: an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on U.S. immigration policy.

I understand you have been fighting to get enviros to pay attention to growth for a long time, and I'm sure you've got a long list of correspondents who might be sympathetic on this issue. Anything you can do to publicize this effort would be greatly appreciated. This might include writing or blogging about the project, forwarding my message on to interested participants, list servs, etc.

Phil Cafaro

August 6, 2012
Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR) has announced a major new project: an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on U.S. immigration policy. PFIR has also unveiled the website for the new project, and has invited public comments on the proper scope and parameters of the study.

In recent decades, American environmentalists have debated about whether or not to weigh in on U.S. immigration policy. Many environmentalists have wondered:
    •    What roles immigration and population growth play in driving the problems environmentalists seek to solve?
    •    Can these problems be solved without addressing immigration and immigration-driven population growth?
    •    What are the policy choices with regard to immigration levels, and how can we choose fairly and wisely among them?

The main policy decision to be evaluated in the new EIS is what level Congress should set for annual immigration into the United States. Current legal immigration into the U.S. is now approximately 950,000 people per year, while an average of 300,000 to 400,000 people immigrate illegally.

According to Dr. Philip Cafaro, a principal investigator in the study: “The EIS will identify a number of plausible alternative immigration scenarios, regarding how many immigrants to allow into the country annually. The study will also develop demographic projections specifying future U.S. populations, based on these different annual immigration rates.”

Dr. Cafaro said this will be followed by detailed analyses examining the likely ecological impacts of different population sizes in areas such as; urban sprawl and farmland loss; water demands and withdrawals from natural systems; greenhouse gas emissions and resultant climate change; habitat loss and impacts on biodiversity; energy demands and national security implications; and the international ecological impacts of U.S. immigration policies.

“The EIS project aims to develop a thorough, objective analysis of the ecological impacts of U.S. immigration policy, so that policy decisions can be made in full knowledge of those impacts,” stated Leah Durant, Executive Director of PFIR.
PFIR solicits public comment on the scope and methodology of this new Environmental Impact Statement on U.S. immigration policy. This initial “scoping” phase of the study will last through October 1. More information can be found by visiting


NEWS: Kitty Corner: Jaguars Win Critical Habitat in U.S.
After years of legal wrangling, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has granted jaguars protected territory

EARTHTALK: Are Wind Turbines Getting More Bird and Bat-Friendly?


10.  For discerning eyes only


Hide/Seek affectingly surveys same-sex love in American portraiture, says Blake Gopnik

It's a formal portrait, and in it you see two handsome young men, crisply dressed in 1940s tweed, seated side by side and looking off into the distance.  The shot could be an ad for ties, or from a class reunion.  And then you look closer, and you realize that, although the two sitters never even glance at each other, they are pressed together, sharing a physical intimacy most men rarely do.  A new awareness dawns:  two of their hands are missing, hidden from view behind the blonde's left arm, where they are clearly clutched in affection.

These are two cultural stars - the choreographer Antony Tudor and his great dancer Hugh Laing - and yet everything about their lifelong love for each other is hidden, at most hinted at in an image carefully constructed by a leader photographer, Carl Van Vechten, himself a closeted gay  man.

This is the fascinating world, and powerful art, that fills Hide/Seek:  Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, at the National Portrait Gallery.  It surveys how same-sex love has been portrayed in art, from Walt Whitman's hints to open declarations in the era of Aids and Robert Mapplethorpe's bull-whips.

...For much of American history - and even today, except in a few areas in a few big cities - the world of gay love has had to be a world of codes and obfuscations, of close reading and uncovering.  It has been the perfect schoolroom, that is, for subtle artists.

In 1898, Eakins, whose own sexuality was probably more fluid than binary, paints a victorious boxer surrounded by men who applaud him - and who are also, necessarily, cheering his winner's physique.  Admiration for what a body can do always carries with it some kind of lust for what it looks like.  Eakins's picture refuses to see the issue of erotic energy as confined to who likes doing what to whom.

Those of us who happen to be straight almost have to envy how much force builds up in gay sex and yearning.  Unless you're pretty out-there in your tastes (and even then) straight sex and sexuality is inevitably banal, just by virtue of its dominance.  Homosexuality, on the other hand, has almost always mattered so much, as a risky and risque social fact, that it has been worth dwelling on, turning over - making art about.

This show is full of tragedy.  The all-gray paintings of Jasper Johns, always poignant in their reticence, now seem like the concealments of a bright life confined to the shadows.  Works from the same period by his lover, Rauschenberg, come clear as full of coded thought.  You can't help noticing, and caring, that his Canto XI illustrates the circle in Dante's hell where sodomites are made to run across hot ground - and that Rauschenberg has pressed his own footprint on to the picture.

There's sorrow even when, at long last, same-sex love stops its hiding.  By the 1980s and 90s, Catherine Opie, Mapplethorpe and others are depicting open gay and lesbian desires, in all their range.  Then Aids hits, and the celebration stops. 

Hide/Seek:  Difference and Desire in American Portraiture is at the National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC, until 13 February 2011

Slightly condensed from Washington Post, reprinted in Guardian Weekly 03.12.10

(JS note:  Aside from the subject matter, this has a historic interest for me.  The very first ballet I saw was a Tudor ballet performed by Ballet Theater in 1943, danced by Hugh Laing among others.)

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