Table of contents for The country in the city : the greening of the San Francisco Bay Area / Richard Walker.

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Foreword: Thinking Globally, Acting Locally, by William Cronon	00
Preface		00
Abbreviations		00
Introduction: Saving Graces	00
1. Out of the Woods: Stirrings of Conservation	00
The Voice of the West
The Magic Mountain
Cut and Run
Bay Area Big and Tall
2. Fields of Gold: Resources at Close Quarters	00
Agricultural Heartland
Agribusiness Goes to Town
Agrarian Legacies
Urban Watersheds
The Mine in the Garden
3. Moving Outdoors: Parks for the People	00
Sculpting Nature
Woodland Playgrounds
The East Is Green
Park for the People
4. The Upper West Side: Suburbia and Conservation	00
The Bulldozer in the Countryside
Marvelous Marin
Spanning the Golden Gate
Guardians of the Foothills
Protecting the Peninsula
5. The Green and the Blue: Saving the Bay and the Coast	00
Bye-Bye Bay
The Soul of a Region
A Crabbed Estuary
The Greening of the Blue
Going Coastal
6. Encounters with the Arch-Modern: Regional Planning and Growth Control	00
Cry California
Metro-Topian Visions
City Limits 
Through the Roof
Toward a Green Urbanism
Greenbelt Alliances
7. Fasten Your Greenbelt: Triumph and Trust Funds	00
Silicon Valley Fever 
Landscapes without Figures
Revolting Times
In Land We Trust
Hanging Together
8. Sour Grapes: The Fight for the Wine Country	00
Deus Ex Vinifera
Holy Terroirs
Salve Regiona
Sonoma Ascendant
9. Toxic Landscapes: Beyond Open Space	00
Pollution Politics 
Airing Grievances
Cleansing Waters
Choose Your Poison
10. Green Justice: Reclaiming the Inner City	00
Brown Environmentalism
One Notion, Divided
The Urban Habitat
Conclusion: City and Country Reconciled?	00
Appendix	00
Notes	00
Bibliography	00
Index	00
Thinking Globally, Acting Locally
William Cronon
In 1969, having just been forced to step down as executive director of the Sierra Club 
after a dispute with the club's board about financial management, the colorful, larger-than-
life David Brower founded a new organization called Friends of the Earth that soon became 
a world-wide leader in environmental politics. As the motto for this new group, Brower 
offered a prescriptive phrase that has since gone on to become a defining theme of 
environmental activism: "Think globally, act locally." However broad or systemic 
environmental problems might be, they almost always express themselves in local places, 
so that we often encounter them most directly in our own homes. Moreover, Brower was 
suggesting that effective environmental activism also begins at home, in the seemingly 
small day-to-day actions within our own communities that when multiplied together by 
thousands and millions of other people doing similar things, ultimately produce our myriad 
impacts on the creatures and ecosystems of the planet. The other key insight expressed in 
this slogan is that people can feel immensely disempowered and dispirited trying to solve 
the problems of an entire planet. Rather than leading to effective activism, the global 
perspectives of environmentalism can all too easily yield passivity and despair. By calling for 
local action, then, Brower was focusing people's attention on places where they could 
unquestionably make a difference if only they chose to do so: in their own homes and 
communities and daily lives.
Given the widespread acceptance of "think globally, act locally" as a key principle of 
environmental politics and ethics, it is a bit surprising that relatively few environmental 
histories have been written in this spirit. Except when dealing with a single local campaign 
(for instance, the controversy surrounding Love Canal in the late 1970s), academic studies 
of environmental activism have typically focused on geographical scales well above the local 
community. More often than not, national legislation and the actions of federal agencies 
have received disproportionate attention. Certainly this was true of Samuel Hays's classic 
Conservation and the Gospel of Efficiency, which arguably launched the modern field of 
environmental political history, and it was equally true of Roderick Nash's Wilderness and 
the American Mind. Hays's magisterial study of post-World War II environmentalism, 
Beauty, Health, and Permanence, pays much more attention to local activism and conflicts, 
but the vast scope of the book prevents any one place from receiving more than a few 
pages of discussion. Although these books and their successors certainly detail political 
conflict in particular local places, their larger goal has generally been to attach those places 
and controversies to a wider national narrative. 
We do have a few environmental histories of individual states, with William Robbins' two-
volume study of Oregon (published by the University of Washington Press in this series) 
standing as the most distinguished benchmark of the genre. But below the level of the 
nation or the state, we have essentially no long-term histories of local environmental 
politics. The reasons for this are many, but can no doubt be attributed partly to 
environmental history's longstanding interest in the public lands and the federal policies that 
have shaped places like national parks and national forests. Access to federal records is 
often a good deal easier and fuller than is true of more local archives, and this too may help 
account for the national and state-level scale of many environmental histories. Even those 
scholars who have focused on smaller geographical areas to analyze local environmental 
politics--here, Andrew Hurley's Environmental Inequalities remains among the most 
distinguished examples--have tended to focus on a single issue or campaign.
For all these reasons, Richard Walker's The Country in the City: The Greening of the San 
Francisco Bay Area should be welcomed as a truly pathbreaking work. There is really no 
book quite like it. Not only does it offer the first comprehensive history of environmental 
activism in the communities surrounding San Francisco Bay from the nineteenth century to 
the present, it is in fact the first comprehensive study of local environmental politics that 
has ever been written for any American city. As such, it offers a model that we can only 
hope other scholars will emulate. Rarely have the benefits of "thinking globally but acting 
locally" been more evident than in the pages of this book--making it all the more 
appropriate that David Brower was himself a prime example of a San Francisco 
environmentalist engaging in activism internationally, nationally--and locally, all at the same 
Richard Walker is one of the nation's leading economic and historical geographers, but he is 
also a child of the Bay Area with a deep love of one of America's most stunningly beautiful 
metropolitan regions. Having served for more than two decades on the faculty of the 
University of California, Berkeley, he has been personally involved in many of the political 
campaigns described in this book and has had first-hand access to individuals who led and 
contributed to those campaigns. As a result, his narrative of San Francisco environmental 
politics combines careful research and long-term historical analysis with a strong sense of 
personal engagement that is unusual in a work of academic scholarship. Like many Bay 
Area activists, Walker is as deeply committed to social justice as he is to environmental 
protection, making him an especially passionate chronicler of historical struggles in which 
Left-Green alliances have probably been more common than in the nation as a whole.
Walker's title--The Country in the City--recalls a classic work of environmental scholarship 
by the British literary critic Raymond Williams entitled The Country and the City. In that 
book, Williams traced the history of pastoral tropes and conventions in English literature, 
paying particular attention to the ways in which artistic representations of rural nature have 
tended to suppress the human (and animal) labor that has gone into creating and sustaining 
that nature. Like Williams, Walker is acutely conscious of the role that social class plays in 
defining who has access to which landscapes, and what kinds of human uses of the natural 
world are and are not considered appropriate by different groups of people with different 
degrees of wealth and power. 
But rather than follow Williams out into the rural countryside to recount (for instance) the 
familiar story of how San Franciscans like John Muir and David Brower protected natural 
areas like Yosemite or Grand Canyon, Walker organizes his narrative around struggles to 
protect natural areas right within San Francisco's metropolitan district. By focusing on the 
country within the city, he is able to avoid the environmentalist dichotomy that too often 
segregates non-human nature from places of human dwelling and labor. Given Walker's 
longstanding interest in political economy, the result is a book that regularly juxtaposes the 
forces of urban development and economic growth with the natural areas that lay in the 
path of those forces. The heroes of his story are the growing numbers of people who sought 
to defend those beloved places from what Walker sees as the inevitably destructive effects 
of an expanding capitalist economy.
This emphasis on land conservation in the face of capitalist economic growth gives Walker's 
book both its narrative unity and one of its most important messages for contemporary 
readers far beyond the Bay Area. Although the focus of public concern might shift from 
decade to decade--from an emphasis on romantic nature in Olmstedian public parks during 
the early years to growing concerns about pollution, toxicity, and biodiversity by the late 
twentieth century--the central riddles of land conservation are perennial. Although the 
growth of the built environment produces essential amenities for many urban residents--and 
great wealth and power for a few--it also brings a host of attendant costs and challenges. 
Among the most important of these have to do with protecting public space against private 
privilege, and sustaining natural ecosystems and human health against political economic 
forces that regularly undervalue their importance. 
Here, Walker offers a contrarian note of hope. Although there are plenty of things to be 
angry about when contemplating the history of past American abuses of the environment--
and this book is forthright about such anger--there is much to celebrate as well. For Walker, 
environmental politics in the Bay Area have been characterized by remarkably broad-based 
citizen coalitions--transcending the divisions of class or race or gender--of people who 
whatever their other political beliefs were deeply committed to the protection of urban 
nature as a beloved and defining feature of their communities. Having no patience for those 
who proclaim the so-called "death of environmentalism," Walker sees the successful 
struggle to build a powerful public commitment to environmental protection in San Francisco 
and its neighbors as a bellwether for how such work should be done elsewhere in the future. 
Only by reaching out at the local level to growing numbers of citizens increasingly aware of 
their shared interests, he says, can the forces that would otherwise destroy "the country in 
the city" be defeated. By acting locally against global forces that potentially threaten all 
landscapes and communities, we defend not just the local nature of places like San 
Francisco Bay, but all those other local natures that together comprise the nation and the 
world as well.
For me, this book is an attempt to go home again. As a child of the Bay Area, I grew up 
with the Santa Cruz Mountains as a backdrop, the open foothills behind Stanford as a 
playground. The orchards of Santa Clara Valley were still in bloom, the redwoods of Big 
Basin and Memorial Park beckoned, and the beaches of Pescadero, San Gregorio, and 
Capitola were practically empty. My father took us on long family vacations every year, 
where we breathed the colors of California and the West on extended car trips. This was 
well before air-conditioning was introduced in automobiles, and the windows stayed wide 
open through the heat of the valleys and the cool of the big trees. I loved the lay of the 
As a teenager, I was awakened to environmental politics by the Save the Bay 
movement and the Sierra Club's campaign to protect the Grand Canyon. Close to home, I 
heard of strange conflicts over Stanford University's land-use plans--conflicts in which my 
dad played a big part--while I was still young. Naturally, I ended up on the side opposite my 
father and the university administration he loved. But he had only himself to blame for 
taking me out into the mountains.
In college I lived in Europe for a time and saw a different kind of landscape than I 
was used to. I have been back there many times. While California was a much more modern 
place when I started traveling abroad, something grabbed me about that old land across the 
Atlantic: not just the ancient monuments and churches, but a landscape so lovingly 
maintained by the human hand. I got to see it before agricultural modernization erased the 
livelihood of the villages and turned them into summer homes for urbanites.
Upon entering graduate school, I went east to Baltimore, Maryland. Johns Hopkins 
University had one of the few environmental programs anywhere in the country in the early 
1970s. Reds Wolman had put together a wonderful collection of faculty and students in the 
newly assembled Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering. There I learned 
to think more deeply about things such as water policy and forest change.
Perhaps more than anything, the experience impressed me with how extraordinarily 
different parts of the United States are. I became a regionalist simply by realizing how much 
of a Californian I am. I recall the shock, for instance, on discovering that the Chesapeake 
Bay--with a coastline five times as long as California's--has hardly a speck of public access. 
How could that be? The beaches back home were public. I had never thought about it, but 
that expectation was in my bones.
On returning to the University of California, I taught courses in environment and 
pollution for several years before being diverted by urban and economic geography. My 
career as an environmental activist was short but sweet. I produced, along with Michael 
Storper and Elaine Mariolle, a report on the finances of the state water project, which 
helped sink the project. Through that experience, I got to know such water activists as Phil 
Williams, Bill Davoren, and Mark Dubois. 
Through Ellen Widess, my partner at the time, I was immersed in the world of 
occupational health, pesticides, and environmental activism. She introduced me to such 
stalwarts of labor and pollution struggles as Tony Mazzocchi, Nick Arguimbau, and Mike 
Belliveau and made me understand what it meant to be devoted to--and not just write 
about--a good cause. It was a great time of life.
Over the years, I have crossed paths with many other wonderful people mentioned 
in this narrative, including Carl Anthony, Greg Karras, and David Brower. Unfortunately, I 
missed out on meeting some of the key players of Bay Area environmental history, such as 
Dorothy Erskine, Mel Scott, and Caroline Livermore. Some of the elders--Sylvia McLaughlin, 
Bill Kortum, Florence LaRiviere--were still around to interview, but the ranks of those born 
before World War II have grown thin. On the other hand, I am happy to have made the 
acquaintance of a number of younger people now involved in environmental work, such as 
Mateo Nube, Robin Grossinger, and Vivian Chang.
My early political education was as a New Deal Democrat, thanks to my parents. But 
it has been good to discover all the old liberal Republicans lurking in the greenbelt story, 
because I still remember a day when Republican did not equate to George W. Bush and his 
Horsemen of the Apocalypse. By the end of the sixties, I had become much more radical 
than my folks, much to my father's chagrin, but I am still full of that good old-time religion 
of the New Deal. I have never made a very good revolutionary. 
Nevertheless, I discovered Karl Marx by reading Capital with David Harvey at Johns 
Hopkins. I still do Marxist economics in my day job, but it has never altered what I came to 
believe deeply in my youth: that protecting the earth--the land, the beasts of the field, the 
fish of sea, and, along with them, the health and good sense of the human species--is an 
absolute. I absorbed the lessons of Rachel Carson, Barry Commoner, and John Muir before I 
ever saw the light of political economy, and it has stuck with me. It was from environmental 
activists, not Leninists, that I first learned the virtue of a radical militancy in defense of 
things precious. It feels good to get back on the green bandwagon after years in the wilds of 
global political economy.
It's not as though everyone got the message that to be red, one should be green, 
and vice versa. There have been too many leftists who missed the boat on the environment 
and too many environmentalists who refused to grasp the nettle of capitalism. But there 
were many great thinkers around Berkeley and the Bay Area who did, and I could safely 
swim in this pond of fellow travelers. In the vast mainstream of American ideology, 
Berkeley-bred ideas are anathema, but I will defend our local political culture to the end. 
We have a bad habit of being right in the end, if a little crazy along the way. And this is why 
I champion so fervently the special place that is the Bay Area.
Most of all, this is a book for everyone in the Bay Area. It is meant to help those who 
live in the San Francisco Bay Area appreciate what they have and what they have done. 
They can use this book as an exercise in collective memory. Anyone who has walked the 
trails of Mount Diablo, picnicked in Tilden Park, surfed the Sonoma coast, or simply taken in 
the open vistas of the Golden Gate might want to know how the wonders they enjoy came 
to be. It is a civic duty to pay tribute to all those who made the greensward possible, and it 
should be a pleasure for those who enjoy our parks, streams, and bay to celebrate what we 
The tale I have to tell is by no means dispassionate, but it is no less objective and 
worth reading for that. I have tried to tell it as honestly and thoroughly as possible. My red 
side tells me I should have been more critical of everything and everyone, but my green 
side wants this to be an upbeat lesson in the art of the possible (which we sorely need in 
these dire times). I have tried to be comprehensive, but it is impossible to be exhaustive 
within the covers of one book--especially if it is to be readable for the wider public. There 
are scores of green groups, hundreds of key fights, thousands of activists, and a million 
acres of open space and water in the Green City--this is only some of their stories. I have 
expressly downplayed the national and international sides of Bay Area environmentalism, 
which are better known, in order to show that even the big fish, including Muir and Brower, 
had to swim in the local pond.
@TXI am happy to acknowledge some terrific help on this project. A trio of friends who keep 
the red-green flame burning are Gray Brechin, Matt Williams, and Marty Bennett, and all 
provided inspiration and assistance, including reading various chapters. I want to thank 
those busy activists who gave of their valuable time to be interviewed, and special thanks to 
those who read individual chapters and answered further questions: Ted Smith, Caryl Hart, 
Larry Orman, John Woodbury, Briggs Nisbet, and Robin Grossinger. Hal Rothman very 
kindly read chapter 4. Bill Cronon read the entire manuscript and provided a gentle guiding 
hand, as well as the kind of encouragement that keeps one going when book production 
becomes a slog.
	I have learned so much from students over the years of teaching and advising that it 
is hard to thank them all individually. Many of them know more about environmental history 
and practice than I, and I have made good use of this fact. Some, including Joan Cardellino, 
Briggs Nisbet, and Monica Moore, became practitioners. Some, such as James McCarthy, 
Jake Kosek, and Julie Guthman, became professors. Some, including Jen Sokolove, Greig 
Guthey, and Shana Cohen, have just completed their doctorates. And some, such as Sarah 
Thomas, Juan DeLara, and Carmen Rojas, are still in graduate school.
	I have been ably assisted by many people along the way to finishing this book. Peter 
Cohen, Sona Chilingaryan, and Juan DeLara have done great work as my research 
assistants. Librarians at History San Jose, San Mateo History, Marin Library's California 
Room, and the Bancroft Library, especially Ann Lage of the Regional Oral History Office, 
have given fully of their time. Julidta Tarver of University of Washington Press saw the 
potential in my early scribblings and brought my little ship into port; Marilyn Trueblood of 
the press ably oversaw the production of the book; and Kris Fulsaas did an admirable job of 
"municipal housekeeping" on the manuscript. All of them know that I don't use the term 
"scribbling" in a purely metaphorical sense.
And thanks most of all to Annie for her ineffable enthusiasm, indispensable support, 
and, best of all, her love.
@TXAAAS	American Association for the Advancement of Science
AAG	American Association of Geographers
ABAG	Association of Bay Area Governments
AEC	Atomic Energy Commission
APEN	Asian Pacific Islander Environmental Network
BAAQMD	Bay Area Air Quality Management District
BCDC	Bay Conservation and Development Commission
CALFED	California-Federal Water Agreement
CalTrans	California Department of Transportation
CBE	Citizens (now Communities) for a Better Environment
COAAST	Californians Organized to Acquire Access to State Tidelands
CRLA	California Rural Legal Assistance
EBMUD	East Bay Municipal Utility District
EDF	Environmental Defense Fund
EPA	U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
FOE	Friends of the Earth
GGNRA	Golden Gate National Recreation Area
IGS	Institute of Governmental Studies
L.A.	Los Angeles
MALT	Marin Agricultural Land Trust
MROSD	Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District
MTBE		methyl tributyl ethylene
MTC	Metropolitan Transportation Commission
NRDC	Natural Resources Defense Council
OPR	Governor's Office of Planning and Research
PCL	Planning and Conservation League
PG&E	Pacific Gas and Electric Company
PODER	People Organized to Defend Economic and Environmental Rights
POS	People for Open Space
POST	Peninsula Open Space Trust
PUEBLO	People United for a Better Oakland
RFF	Resources for the Future
SLUG	San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners
SPUR	San Francisco Planning and Urban Renewal Association
SVTC	Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
TALC	Transportation and Land-use Coalition
TNC	The Nature Conservancy
TPL	Trust for Public Land
UC	University of California
U.S.	United States
WPA	Works Progress Administration
Saving Graces
The San Francisco Bay Area is more greensward than asphalt jungle, more open space than 
hardscape. Like the universe, it is mostly empty space. But what looks empty at first glance 
is not; it is a different kind of matter than the cityscape of bright lights and buildings. It is 
filled with a jumble of fields, woods, farms, and grasslands, of mines, marinas, creeks, and 
bays. This open space is sometimes called the urban greenbelt, but it is really a coat of 
many colors besides green--yellow, brown, blue, and gold--and less a belt than a quilt of 
countryside tucked into the folds of the metropolis. 
In the nine-county San Francisco region , 3.75 million of 4.5 million acres are 
greenbelt and open water, and less than 750,000 acres lie beneath buildings and 
pavements. Almost 900,000 acres are in publicly owned open spaces, what advocates call 
secure greenbelt. The Bay Area has the most extensive such greensward in the country, a 
patchwork of more than 200 protected areas within 40 miles of San Francisco covering an 
area larger than Yosemite National Park. At the heart of the metropolitan region is the bay 
itself, another 725,000 acres of water and wetlands guarded by government regulation. 
Agriculture occupies the largest swath of unpaved surface: 1.8 million acres. 
This is the country in the city. Cities like the Bay Area are involuted throughout their 
length and breadth with elements, traces, and re-creations of the countryside, including 
farms, ranches, parks, watersheds, wildlife reserves, trails, creeks, beaches, restored 
wetlands, and more. These are as much as part of the geography of urbanism as offices, 
roads, airports, apartments, and shopping malls. Our green and pleasant lands are not 
something apart from the city, something left over from nature's beneficence. They are part 
and parcel of the city--that most profoundly unnatural of human artifacts. The greenbelt, 
the open bay, and the clear breezes of the Bay Area are ours to enjoy because of intense 
human activity. This book lays out the jigsaw geography of those places, the nonurban 
urban realm, and tries to arrange the pieces into a coherent narrative. 
The making of the Bay Area's civic greensward has been a long and arduous process, 
built up over decades and fought over acre by acre. Every park, reserve, and trail required 
money, mobilization, lobbying, and electoral pressure. Every farm and watershed was 
developed through investment, hard work, and sacrifice. Every place not paved meant 
holding back developers and highway builders with local ordinances, regional commissions, 
and greenbelt alliances. Every mile of bay not reeking of sewage and garbage dumps is due 
to regulations, legal maneuvering, and political will. In short, the greenbelt is not a natural 
product of social progress and dawning enlightenment, but something that has been won 
through decades of effort. 
This book tells the story of how the Bay Area got its green groove. It begins with the 
stirrings of conservation in the time of John Muir and the Sempervirens Club. It then lays 
out the agricultural and mining legacy of the region and their ongoing mark on the 
geography of the city. Next, it turns to origins of the recreational park system, "pleasure 
grounds" such as San Francisco's Golden Gate Park and the East Bay's Tilden Park. For the 
postWorld War II era, it jumps north to the astonishing success of Marin County and 
south to the San Francisco Peninsula in stopping the suburban bulldozers and setting aside 
their beautiful backyards as nature preserves. 
After that comes the all-important fight to save San Francisco Bay--the blue-green 
heart of the region. Subsequently, the narrative expounds on the battles all around the Bay 
Area to control urban growth rates, as well as the utopian movement for a regional plan. 
Following that, it turns to the use of open-space districts and land trusts in the wake of 
declining government funding. The story next moves farther north to the Wine Country in 
Napa and Sonoma counties and the lively fight for the greenbelt at the fast-growing urban 
fringe. The final two chapters look deep within the built-up city at the battle against 
pollution and toxic chemicals, in the neighborhoods of the working class and the dark-hued 
@TXEvery city produces its own antithesis: a working, living, vibrant countryside. This is 
true in a double sense of an urbanized countryside and a ruralized city. We need to take 
account of both senses of the country in the city. On the one hand, the economic process of 
urbanization necessarily demands a countryside to service urban needs: farms, quarries, 
reservoirs, dumps, and the rest. The urban periphery is, in an important sense, a huge 
backyard of the city, and one that is fiercely exploited. That is the urbanized countryside. 
On the other hand, the first kind of countryside disappears as the city expands; it is 
platted, bulldozed, paved, and built upon. But there is a counterflow to urban advance, one 
that leads to setting aside open spaces, reserves, and other naturalized areas and that 
reworks nature into parks and other recreational spaces. It includes individual backyards 
that capture a bit of personal space and greenery. This is the ruralized city. It is born of a 
reaction to the bulldozers of urban development leveling the countryside and the desire to 
have something of the rural and the wild near at hand. It even reaches out into the working 
countryside to salvage the land from exploitation by the supply lines of the city.
This is not the ordinary view of the city and the country. Conventionally, the city is 
the built-up area and the country is a thing apart where nature reigns. As the city grows, it 
obliterates everything that came before. Environmentalists refer to this advance as "the wall 
of sprawl"; Adam Rome speaks of "the bulldozer in the countryside"; and Edward Soja calls 
it the "postmodern city," in which history is erased from the landscape. Such imagery is 
powerful and by no means altogether wrong, but it is nonetheless misleading. 
The city and country coevolve. One cannot say that the rural came first and the city 
later intruded upon it. George Henderson has rightly said of California that "city and 
countryside developed in tandem." There was no settled countryside that preexisted the 
urban; the Gold Rush of 1849 created "instant cities," and California quickly became one of 
the most urbanized places on earth. If we persist in seeing cities as latecomers invading 
pristine rural landscapes, we are complicit with the profound American amnesia regarding 
history and geography. The countryside has always depended on the city, coexisted within 
the urban realm, and left its mark on urban forms. 
This mingling of country and city complicates the social geography of environmental 
sentiment. Raymond Williams' pathbreaking work, The Country and the City, can help us 
sort this out. Williams shows how deeply intertwined the urban and rural social orders of 
England have been and how this gave rise to a particular upper-class "structure of feeling" 
about the English landscape. Americans are no different. Their views about conservation 
and the land were born out of the encounter of the city and the county; by moving back and 
forth between the rural and urban; and out of their dreams of remembered youth in the 
country and out of their urban nightmares. Even more, these movements emerged out of 
struggles over the nearby countryside, where the city gave way to the suburbs. The impulse 
continues right down to environmental justice advocates wrestling with the meaning of a 
wholesome and livable environment in the central city. 
The environment most urbanites care about is not primarily wilderness and nature 
far from where they live. The wilderness obsession was made the mantra of environmental 
history by Roderick Nash's Wilderness and the American Mind. Students would do better to 
start with Leo Marx's The Machine in the Garden and Henry Nash Smith's Virgin Land, 
because they portray the effort by Americans to come to grips with modernity in the 
countryside and the loss of the rural past as seen from the city. Urban historians such as 
Kenneth Jackson, in The Crabgrass Frontier, and Peter Schmitt, in Back to Nature, are also 
clear about the mingling of the country in the city. But environmental historians have only 
just begun to break with the wilderness tradition and get back to the cities. 
This unity of country and city is evident in the San Francisco Bay Area. People here 
have commonly been immersed in the city and in love with the country, notably Tahoe, 
Yosemite, and Big Sur. Elites could bridge the geographic gap by owning both city homes 
and forest hideaways or by taking the railroad to Del Monte Hotel on the Monterey 
Peninsula. Even John Muir lived on the edge of the city when he wasn't tramping around the 
mountains. The middle classes made their forays into the countryside by car and on limited 
vacation time but enjoyed their campgrounds, fishing holes, and beaches. A common source 
of affection for the countryside is the memory of childhood excursions to the mountains or 
the coast. 
The most cherished environments of the Bay Area have often been ones nearest the 
city, because they have been the most accessible, the most visible, and the most 
threatened. There are sainted venues like Muir Woods, the Napa Valley, and Point Reyes, 
but just as important are the more everyday places, glanced at out the window, such as 
Angel Island, Mission Peak, or the Carquinez Straits. These have been the sites of some of 
the fiercest and most defining battles over the fate of nature and of urban society in this 
region, and they are the ones that make up the story recounted here.
For a city of its size--seven million people, the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the 
United States--the San Francisco Bay Area is remarkably blessed with breathing room. The 
watery expanse of the bay is the centerpiece and the region's trademark. The surrounding 
rings of mountains and hills provide a topographic counterpoint to the bay and plains. The 
central Coast Ranges are rich with wooded canyons, open ridges, chaparral-coated hillsides, 
and oak-studded savanna. The place is blessed with great vistas and dramatic fog banks, 
thanks to the fresh breezes blowing off the Pacific Ocean, and combines an abundance of 
bright sunshine and rainfall in the same climatic package. It is one of the most beautiful 
cities on earth, many say, and no doubt nature has been kind to those of us who live here.
Nevertheless, one old myth of Bay Area exceptionalism needs to be put to rest. Its 
political stance did not spring from nature, despite the fact that this has been an article of 
faith among local greens. Dorothy Erskine, founder of People for Open Space, once declared 
that "our surroundings are so dramatic that I think that it has generated a certain emotional 
drive that led to victory in the battle for the Bay, and advanced our region farther than 
other parts of the United States in consciousness about the environment." Regional planner 
Jack Kent felt the same way: "What distinguishes the San Francisco Bay Area from its 
metropolitan peers is the remarkable way a dramatic geographic setting has had a 
decisive influence in shaping a Bay Area 'way of life'." 
All this would carry more weight if Los Angeles--so often disparaged by San 
Franciscans--were not so clearly more spectacular in its topography and more idyllic for 
human habitation. Looked at with some dispassion, the Bay Area is notoriously foggy, its 
mountains the lowest in the Coast Ranges, its hills mostly bare and dry in summer, its 
ocean front bitterly cold, its bay muddy, its creeks puny. What Los Angeles has lacked is not 
natural beauty but failure of imagination about saving its natural blessings. 
No, nature did not grant us all that we see. It did not give us parks and playgrounds, 
open space reserves and vineyards, piers and sailboats with which to enjoy the bay. And it 
certainly did not carry an insurance policy that assured the bay would never be filled, the 
mudflats fouled, and the rivers made to run uphill or that the hills would not be dug up for 
minerals, cut down for housing tracts, or lain to rest beneath freeways. It didn't give us 
trees in the right places, enough picnic tables and trails, or sufficient water for such a huge 
It is all, in an important sense, art and artifice. A friend from New York declaimed 
many years ago on a visit to lush Golden Gate Park that "It's amazing to think that the Bay 
Area once all looked like this!" Amazing, indeed, since the previous sand dunes were pretty 
barren until made into a great horticultural garden by the park builders. Nor are the lovely 
vineyards of the Napa Valley any less a product of the human hand. Even in places as wild 
looking as Point Reyes, there is a profound imprint of two centuries of cattle grazing. The 
whole of the greensward is an act of social engineering. So let's clear our eyes about the 
blessings of nature, and see them through the prescription glasses of human action. 
The greensward is the Bay Area's saving grace. But not because it naturalizes the 
metropolis. Rather, open spaces humanize the city. To say a city is made more humane by 
nature is no paradox. After all, the green lands are as much human- as nature-made, and 
therein lies their secret pleasure. This is a living landscape redolent with meaning for those 
who love both city and country and who realize how hard it is to reconcile the two. Open 
spaces close at hand are no passive backdrop to the city or leafy stage setting. No, every 
inch of the greenbelt, even the air we breath and the water we drink, vibrates with history 
and politics.
@TXWho, then, had a hand in making the Bay Area's greensward? Who fought to humanize 
the city, protect its bay, hold on to its fresh air? The primary role of women in this vibrant 
history is striking. Women are everywhere in the story told here. They have served as 
leaders, innovators, and minions, and they came from every direction, as housewives, 
mothers, lawyers, and scientists. There's just no getting around the sheer number of 
women. Indeed, women such as Dorothy Erskine, Caroline Livermore, Amy Meyer, Janet 
Adams, and Pam Tau Lee are the real heroes of this story. They have done it all.
Yet women are all but invisible in traditional environmental history. Rachel Carson 
always appears, but there is no comprehensive study of women in American conservation. 
Gottlieb tries to even up the balance sheet by including health and sanitation work done by 
progressives such as Alice Hamilton, but the women disappear after that. Glenda Riley has 
assembled a remarkable collection of women writers and scientists coming to terms with 
nature in the far West, but hers is a strictly intellectual history. Environmentalism as a 
political movement has not been just a man's world, and by getting down to the local level 
we get beyond the upper crust of male leadership, men's tendency to push themselves to 
the forefront, and bias toward charismatic figures. Too much ink has been spilt over the 
famously male yearnings for wilderness, a land ethic, and deep ecology in accounts of 
American environmental history. 
There is a hidden history of women's conservation efforts that turns on the network 
of civic and garden clubs. In an era when women were still known by their husband's 
names, they were already having a significant impact on conservation projects and the 
spread of its principles, and a few were emerging as professionals and scientists. In the 
postwar era, women had an even greater public role in environmentalism; there were more 
college graduates than ever, and more were pursuing such callings as botany, landscape 
architecture, and engineering. But most were still housewives, looking for outlets for their 
energy and intelligence. 
Times have changed, and today's women environmentalists are usually in the 
workforce, and many are professionals. They are numerous in the nonprofit sector. And 
they are very present in pollution control and antitoxics struggles, but by no means 
exclusively. As one veteran of the postwar generation notes, with good humor, "I was a 
typical 'do-gooder'; we're all gone now. Now good works are all done by executive 
Why are women so prominent in conservation and toxics battles? Most likely it 
derives from women's age-old role as the prime caregivers and nurturers of children, family, 
and the domestic sphere. This was hardly invented by bourgeois society, though it was 
certainly amped up in the nineteenth century. And while women have steadily emerged into 
the workforce and public life, this intense involvement with domestic concerns and familial 
well-being has not passed away. It would be a mistake, however, to confuse the "domestic" 
with the private sphere; women's concerns have repeatedly been taken into public forums, 
from the "municipal housekeeping" reformers of Progressive-era Chicago to postwar 
suburban women mobilizing the political right in Orange County. 
In being thus engaged, women come up against problems that can only be called 
"environmental": Are my children safe? Where can they play? How are my friends' and 
family's health and well-being? How fares my community, and who gets to decide? If 
women develop a strong green bent, it has usually arisen from such things as the loss of 
nearby woods where children play, the contamination of local drinking water, or the stench 
arising from a nearby factory. One hears such reasons repeatedly in interviews with green 
activists or environmental-justice advocates, along with the more generic reflections on the 
local sources of their love of nature, including days at the beach, walks in the redwoods, or 
sailing on the bay. 
Leading male conservationists, such as John Muir and David Brower, have been more 
inclined to be high romantics, who slip easily into lofty abstractions about spiritual 
reunification between a transcendental nature and the interior self, and the like. Women 
environmentalists are more likely to be realists grounded in the local, communal, and 
ecological, who take their cue from pragmatic lessons of maintaining a home, building a 
support network, or protecting living things. This is not to claim that all men are one way 
and all women another or that it is always in their natures to be thus; indeed, there has 
been considerable convergence in perspectives in recent years. But when the dust settles 
after we argue over statistics and essences, the difference in outlook remains too 
widespread to ignore.
@TXThe Bay Area environmental story bears witness to the importance of the elite in land 
conservation and nature protection. Greens are typically upper class and white, from the 
businessmen conservationists of the Progressive era to the Stanford- or Harvard-trained 
lawyers of today's national organizations such as EarthJustice. And the San Francisco region 
is wealthier than any other city in the United States, with a disproportionately large number 
of capitalists, managers, and professionals. But what compels the well-to-do to take the 
path of conservation? In the era of George W. Bush, it ought to be plain that 
environmentalism is not the inevitable calling of the national bourgeoisie and satraps of the 
American empire--quite the contrary, one might say. So why is the green band in the 
spectrum of elite ideas so wide in the Bay Area?
Certainly, it begins with the experience of the beautiful places around northern 
California, from the sea to the Sierra, and with a capacious sense of a collective "backyard" 
on Mount Tamalpais or along the San Mateo coast. The upper classes are prodigious 
consumers of space and nature, with large properties, large houses, and a large sense of 
command of the landscape. They are also keenly aware of the relation between a comely 
environment and land values. So they might be expected to try to create great swaths of 
desirable space near to where they live, in the name of conservation. They are, in short, 
great consumers of the landscape. 
But there's a rub. All is not class harmony when the forces of capital storm the gates 
of landscape consumption. Many times the redoubts of the rich have been threatened by 
urban expansion, and many times the privileged have had to take on developers head to 
head. This contradiction has been prominent in the Bay Area, from freeway revolts to 
stopping bay fill. It leads people to oppose their own class interest in fighting off developers, 
industry, and investors and amounts, in the larger sense, to biting the hand that feeds. 
Conservationists usually call this "opposition to blind progress," but the howls of protest 
from business against these class traitors say that it is opposition to blind profit. More often 
than not, it has been men on the side of "the city profitable," and women on the side of "the 
city livable," as Maureen Flanagan shows for the urban reformers of Chicago during the 
Progressive era. 
Nor is greenbelt protection reducible to elite consumption spaces and their defense 
against developers. Bay Area greens have held to a remarkably broad notion of public 
interest and public space. This has its roots in Frederick Law Olmsted's ideas about public 
pleasure grounds and Progressive notions of the public good; it expanded with the coming 
of New Deal social liberation and public works and reached utopian heights among some 
Modernist regional planners after World War II; and, finally, it got a huge shot in the arm 
from the New Left radicalism of the 1960s and its aftershocks. A key difference between the 
conservative conservation of Westchester County, New York, as documented by Jim and 
Nancy Duncan in Landscapes of Privilege, and the socially liberal conservation of the Bay 
Area is that the vast majority of open space set aside here is pulbic land for public use. 
From Point Reyes to Alcatraz, from Mount Diablo to the Bay Trail, the people--of all classes 
and kinds--are welcome and even encouraged to partake of their place in the greensward. 
Nor has environmentalism been the exclusive province of the upper classes or white 
people, even in the wealthy Bay Area. The bumper sticker made famous by Richard White, 
"Are you an environmentalist or do you work for a living?" paints a double-yellow line 
between classes, a line that really ought to be dotted. We should not be too quick to dismiss 
the mass of ordinary people as advocates of environmental protection. As Andrew Hurley 
shows so well in the case of Gary, Indiana, it is always a question of the kind of 
environment each class and race confronts in a city. The environmental struggles of 
different sides have their own integrity, even if inflected by class and race prerogatives or 
Environmentalism is a movement made up of a remarkable mixture of people and 
projects. It is in no way reducible to the national conservation organizations, such as the 
Wilderness Society and National Wildlife Federation. This is particularly true of the Bay Area. 
No place in the country has witnessed more outbreaks of green activism. In fact, it was here 
that modern environmentalism first became a mass political movement in the 1960s with 
the sudden ballooning of the Sierra Club and the Save San Francisco Bay Association. And 
they are only two among dozens of local green organizations. The big groups stand out like 
downtown skyscrapers--monumental, symbolic, and dominating--but they are far from the 
sum total of the landscape of urban environmentalism.
The Bay Area's greenbelt has had considerable working-class support for decades. 
Workers have not been oblivious to the need for parks, recreational areas, and fishing 
habitat. Common folk and unions have lent support to conservationists back at least to the 
formation of the East Bay Regional Parks in the 1930s, and that continued through the 
creation of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in the 1970s and resurfaced in such 
campaigns as putting urban growth boundaries around the cities of Sonoma County in the 
1990s. Surveys show a rock-solid support for parks and open space among people of color, 
especially Latinos, both as users of public space and as voters for parklands.
In the Bay Area, environmentalism has steadily broadened its appeal, particularly in 
the domain of pollution control. Over the last generation, a host of environmental-justice 
groups dealing with brownfield issues in the inner city have raised new and troubling 
concerns about toxic environments. While their demands are not the same as those of 
mainstream greens seeking suburban open space, it is perverse to define such groups out of 
the environmental camp altogether. If anything, they have a deeper and more 
encompassing notion of what constitutes the urban environment and what it takes to make 
it livable. And their views have altered those of the larger conservation community.
@TXEnvironmentalism is more than the sum of class, gender, and race positions or 
interests. It has an irreducible life of its own. The green tendency has been a pillar of Bay 
Area life and politics for more than a century, and it inflects every other social movement to 
some degree. It has been as significant a marker of the place as the Gold Rush, Silicon 
Valley, or the Beat movement. Raymond Williams would have called this local tradition of 
politics and opposition a "militant particularism." We can call it, simply, a green political 
Places are not just where things happen. They develop a character all their own that 
builds up over time, feeds upon itself, and affects all who pass through its bracing 
atmosphere. It is not given by nature or the mystic past; it has to be reproduced, like 
anything else. Harvard University has a distinctive culture; so does the Pentagon; so does 
as large and ill-defined a place as Hollywood. We make reference to these cultures all the 
time, but when it comes to whole cities or regions, we balk at making the same assertions. 
A city seems too big, people too flighty, the world too intrusive in this globalized era. And 
certainly one cannot argue by assertion. This book is a sustained case for calling the Bay 
Area green.
Politics is not just elections and candidates, winning and losing. Politics is a system of 
parties, nonprofit organizations, civic groups, popular movements, business associations, 
and legal rules. 
At the same time, political life implies a public sphere, public debate, and public 
conflicts. These are the social cauldrons in which ideas grow, movements are born, and 
political hegemony is sustained. That is, politics is organized action, with an institutional 
fabric that must be built up and kept up to be effective. That, in turn, takes financial 
resources, social solidarity, and able leadership. Bay Area environmentalists have 
constructed an exceptionally effective network of organizations, from the Marin 
Conservation League to Save Mount Diablo, which has continued to grow healthy new 
branches over the years. The public sphere has a language and conventions that must be 
employed and appealed to in order to sway others to one's cause. This politic syntax takes 
on a particular slant depending on the time and the place. Consider the divergent public 
discourse of the United States and Europe about global warming in the early 2000s; the two 
hardly seemed to inhabit the same planet. At a smaller scale, in the Bay Area, ideas such as 
climate change, habitat loss, and disappearing species are much more common currency in 
the local media and classrooms than in, say, Houston. Professors, pundits, and politicians 
must all make reference to green causes from time to time to be taken seriously. 
Culture, whether we're speaking of politics, religion, or nation, is a social order, 
greater than any one person for the most part. It is the sea in which human beings swim, 
the air we breath. It helps define who we are and where we belong. To grow up, live, and 
work in the Bay Area is to partake of its green culture. At the same time, culture is not a 
structure that determines what we do and how we think. It is more than ruling ideology, 
repeated habits, and the rules of the game. It is an ethical universe in which we operate, a 
workaday grammar of good behavior that must be deployed by each and every person and 
can be reworked to deal with new situations as they arise. And being a system of moral 
sentiments, it is about "doing the right thing." In a green moral order, protecting nature is 
both good in itself and the road to the good life for the people of the city. 
In this sense of political culture, the Bay Area is not just a place full of green spaces, 
green projects, and green organizations. It is a place where green enthusiasms, like open 
space, are built into the fabric of urban life. It is a city whose identity is wrapped up in the 
local environment and its protection. Kenneth Olwig refers to this kind of affection for place 
as the "invisible fellowship of the landscape," and it is partly symbolic, partly material, and 
thorough communal. 
Of course, no place in the modern world stands alone, least of all a city at the 
crossroads of global technology, finance, and commerce like the San Francisco Bay Area. 
There is an intense traffic in people and ideas between different places. John Muir was born 
in Scotland, raised in Wisconsin, and toured Central America before coming to California. 
Frederick Law Olmsted only passed through California for a few years. Judi Bari moved to 
the redwood country from New York, Mike Belliveau from New England, and Caroline 
Livermore from Texas. None of this is unusual; many heroes of this story were born 
elsewhere. One can also point to reverse migrations, such as Petra Kelly and Jose 
Bové, both of whom spent part of their youth in Berkeley before going back to 
Germany and France, respectively, to raise green hell. The Bay Area's environmental culture 
has always been a fertile mixture of intensely local struggles informed by larger visions of 
nature, planning, government, law, and health. 
@TXNothing about the green cast of local political culture is inevitable. Nor is there anything 
preventing environmental causes from taking a rightward course. For example, population 
control, a perennial undercurrent of American environmentalism, has at its root eugenics 
and racial purification. The German Nazis claimed to have learned a great deal from 
California in their programs of racial cleansing, and they put great stock in environmental 
purity, as well. The Sierra Club still has a large contingent that would like to make border 
closure a plank of the club's policy. The comparison with Orange County or San Diego 
should remind us that the direction politics takes rests on local political culture; we are 
lucky that it took the green path in the Bay Area. 
A staple of environmentalist faith in the Bay Area, as elsewhere, has been the belief 
in a beautiful, elegant, and virtuous nature. In this view, nature has its own logics of 
ecosystems, topography, and hydrology apart from those of humankind, even when 
significantly altered by human action, and those natural systems must be respected, 
admired, and, where degraded, restored to something like their previous vitality. Is this just 
a fantasy about untouched nature and the forest primeval? Not at all, though there are 
naive adherents to any set of beliefs. At root, the environmental ethic has a sound basis in 
science and a reasonable grasp of the human imprint on an urbanized countryside. 
Nonetheless, it has inged on the denizens of the city a necessary critique of the fetishes of 
market value, anthropocentricism, and theology. For this, a sense of nature outside and 
beyond human affairs is not an idle dream but an essential point of leverage for rethinking 
the way we inhabit the earth. 
At the same time, environmentalism in the Bay Area took a distinctly left turn along 
the way. Local conservationists are much more militant and socially committed than those 
most anywhere else in the country. Thanks to the uncompromising stance of John Muir, the 
Sierra Club ended up more progressive than its contemporaries, the Audubon Society or the 
Boone and Crockett Club. In the mid-twentieth century, the Bay Area kept on turning left 
(or at least down a road less traveled) behind the likes of Dave Brower, Martin Litton, 
Dorothy Erskine, and Sylvia McLaughlin, as Bay Area greens turned against such 
mainstream ideas as nuclear power, hydroelectricity, and clear-cutting. 
But is this enough? On the left, it has often been said that bourgeois 
environmentalists are not radical because they don't understand the grip of capitalism on 
the earth. No doubt, it is true that the grasp of most activists on the dynamics of capital 
accumulation is shaky. Yet, on the metric of militancy in opposition to capital's unchecked 
ambitions, the greens often rate high. Environmentalists have regularly put up some of the 
fiercest battles against the prerogatives of property and money of any movement in 
America. This has been especially true in the Bay Area, where our militant particularists 
have refused to give in to housing developers, freeway builders, and electronics makers. 
A similar criticism is made from the racial left these days. Upper-class white 
environmentalists are not radical enough because they don't grasp the oppression of the 
class system and the racial order. Again, this is true to a considerable extent. But even 
without that understanding, greens have commonly been the fiercest opponents of the 
production system that so glibly poisons the earth (and people of color in its wake), of the 
highway network that spews pollution over urban neighborhoods, and suburban sprawl that 
starves inner cities of their vitality.
A fairer comparison is not to the ideals of the far left, however meritorious, but with 
other major opposition movements to the untrammeled power of business and industry in 
America. Consider the role of labor unions, for example. It is no less true that unions are a 
place where radicalism, reformism, and complicity with capital have always mixed uneasily. 
The labor movement has brought clear benefits to working people, despite its failure to live 
up to socialist hopes, but it has all too often been weak, craven, and corrupt as well. 
That failure does not make unions any less necessary to any project of ameliorating 
American capitalism in all its ferocity.
It is not easy to pin down the ideological coloration of the Bay Area's progressive 
environmentalism. It has drawn on many intellectual currents critical of the prevailing order. 
For some, this includes classic socialism, for others anarchism, for others antimodernism, 
and for yet others religious faith. One encounters such ideological cross-dressing all the 
time. Gary Snyder, an inspirational writer of deep green persuasion, combines Zen, 
bioregionalism, and Wobbly sentiments in a seamless whole. Kenneth Rexroth, whose 
bohemian soirees launched the Beat movement in San Francisco, loved backpacking in the 
Sierra as much as he loved anarchism and Chinese poetry. But, in the end, green is one of 
the primary colors in the flag of the Left Coast, where politics and culture have long been 
out of step with the rest of America. 
@TXStandard histories of American environmentalism are remarkably placeless--a fatal 
inattention to geography. Even though they inevitably make reference to the special role of 
the far West as the frontier of American conquest and of nature in the national imaginary, 
they forget that San Francisco is part of the West and that it dominated the West for a 
century. It should not surprise us, then, that the Bay Area had a significant role in the 
national nature play.
In fact, the San Francisco Bay Area deserves special credit in the history of 
conservation and environmentalism. It was the birthplace of wildlands preservation with 
Muir and the Sierra Club in the 1890s. It gestated the National Park Service and the 
recreational parks under Stephen Mather and Horace Albright in the 1910s. It became the 
first place to organize mass movements for environmental protection under the Sierra Club 
and Save San Francisco Bay Association in the 1960s. And it led the way in the fight for 
clean air, clean water, and a nontoxic environment behind Citizens for a Better Environment 
and Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition in the 1980s.
One example should indicate the problem of inattention to place. In Bob Gottlieb's 
fine history of modern environmentalism, he credits Gary Snyder with coining the phrase 
"earth household" without placing Snyder in Northern California; he puts Denis Hayes, the 
organizer of Earth Day, at Harvard Law School while missing the fact that he was Stanford 
student body president; and he cites Peoples Park as "especially suggestive of how 
environmental themes emerged in [the 1960s]" but never links this to the qualities of 
The point is not to generate a list of "firsts" by Bay Area greens in the national 
accounts, however. Paying attention to place is not the same as civic hagiography. It is an 
essential part of the larger project of environmental history. Ideas and practices may 
reverberate nationally, but that doesn't mean they come out of nowhere. Whatever their 
larger compass, they still must be based in everyday life and landscape, in personal and 
collective geographies. The Bay Area's larger achievements are grounded in a place 
uniquely saturated with a green public culture. And that has redounded to the benefit of a 
larger national, and international, movement.

Library of Congress Subject Headings for this publication:

Urban landscape architecture -- California -- San Francisco Bay Area.
Urban renewal -- Environmental aspects -- California -- San Francisco Bay Area.
Landscape ecology -- California -- San Francisco Bay Area.
Environmental protection -- California -- San Francisco Bay Area.