Protect California’s Bag Ban

Bill the Pelican taking a photo with his Save The Bay bag for the #MyBag Campaign
Bill the Pelican taking a photo with his Save The Bay bag for the #MyBag Campaign

In August of 2014, California became the first state in the country to approve a plastic bag ban and on September 30, 2014, Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law. This was an exciting victory for keeping toxic trash out of our state’s waterways and the Pacific Ocean.

The bag ban was set to go into effect on July 1, 2015 but the plastics industry funded a referendum to stop it. Paid signature gatherers collected signatures across the state in order to hinder the bag ban. Several reports indicate that the plastics industry used deceptive means to obtain signatures.

In late February 2015, Secretary of State Alex Padilla reported that the bag ban referendum had qualified, delaying implementation of the bill until voters approve it in November 2016. According to Padilla, the plastics industry has already spent over $3 million in this effort, with 98% of funds coming from out-of-state interests.

80% of Bay Area residents are currently living in a jurisdiction that has banned plastic bags and the majority of Californians support the ban. We cannot let out of state interests and the plastics industry weaken our progress when it comes to preventing plastic pollution for the entire state.

In response, we’re asking you to join a growing coalition of organizations that are advocating for and upholding a statewide bag ban. To kick off these efforts, Sacramento-based organization Californians Against Waste developed a social media campaign called #MyBag, launching  July 1st to commemorate the day that the statewide bag ban should have gone into effect. For many of us in the Bay Area, bag bans are already common place, so let’s show the rest of the state how easy it can be to bring your own bag.

The #MyBag social media campaign invites you to go online and post pictures of yourself, friends and family, with reusable bags you use at the store.

Post your #MyBag ‘selfie’ to Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and make sure the world knows you’ve had enough of single-use plastic bags polluting the environment.  Include the #MyBag hashtag and tag @saveSFbay to help spread your support for California’s plastic bag ban.

Escaping Alcatraz | Bridget Quinn

Bridget and friends preparing for the iconic swim.
Bridget and friends preparing for the iconic swim.

San Francisco Bay touches all of our lives, but how many people spend time swimming in the Bay? This the second guest blog from the 2015 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon. Meet Bridget Quinn, an avid swimmer and local athlete. 

On June 7 at approximately 7:30 am – a pleasing symmetry of lucky numbers – I leapt from the deck of a 300-foot sternwheeler idling alongside Alcatraz into the San Francisco Bay.

Lucky me.

I wasn’t the only lucky one.  Nearly 2,000 fellow triathletes hit the water with me, emptying the charming San Francisco Belle in less than eight minutes.  That’s a lot of flying neoprene.  That’s a lot of bodies piling up near each other.  That’s an astonishing number of swimmers to mostly disappear from sight.

It was a foggy morning.  So I was glad to be on familiar terms with this mythic body of water.  Siting was nearly impossible from water level, every shore shrouded in fog, but I’ve swum the Bay enough that my body feels safe there.  Once I’m in and going, I trust all will be well.  My biggest fear had been people landing on top of me after jumping off the boat – especially men, who outnumbered women at least four to one.  The jump went fine, but I struggled near the start behind a wall of men I couldn’t pass or swim through for long minutes.  Circumnavigating the wall at last, the Bay opened up like a gift.

It was choppy at times, but the water was much warmer than usual.  Rumors on the boat varied, but consensus hovered around 59- or even 60-degrees.  Lovely, if you’re from around here.  Harder if you’re from, say, almost anyplace else.

I’ve had difficulty with the Bay’s strong currents in the past, swimming more than two miles over the same 1.5 mile route after being pushed off course, but this year it was a straight shot in to the Saint Francis Yacht Club, where I happily staggered onto shore, not too cold and not too tired, smiling at the screaming spectators lining the rock wall.

In international polls of triathletes, Alcatraz is the #1 bucket list race in existence.  No doubt the iconic swim is the reason for that.  In June 1962, three prisoners escaped The Rock by attempting their own swim to freedom.  They were never seen again.  In the popular imagination they were eaten by sharks (unlikely to impossible) but the cold or currents could easily have taken them down.  Then again, maybe they made it?  Staggered up into North Beach and got lost in the crowd.  The mystery and outlaw history of that original swim are part of the race’s appeal.

As is the real challenge of the swim itself.  The Alcatraz swim is famous for its rigorous conditions – cold water, true open water swimming from point-to-point, and strong currents – and a certain fear factor that comes from those formidable trials, as well as the course bogeyman: sharks.

I was thrilled when my number was picked in this year’s Escape From Alcatraz lottery.  As congratulations, my husband found a two-page spread of the iconic dive from the boat into the bay – a gorgeous image – and, Sharpie in hand, inserted a fin cresting the surface of the water.  Funny.

Except to most people, it’s not.  Sharks are the first thing I’m asked about when I tell folks I swim in the Bay.  The fear is ubiquitous, and irrational: sharks big enough to actually hurt a human can’t live in the shallow, not-terribly-salty Bay.  But irrationality knows no bounds.  One acquaintance told me that her biggest fear on moving from Chicago to San Francisco was that she’d be on a bridge when The Big One hit and would end up in the Bay.  Scary, right?  Except her fear wasn’t plummeting some 250-feet through midair and hitting water.  It was that once in the water, she’d be attacked by sharks.

This level of madness cannot be reasoned with, of course.  But let’s at least say that in the 35 years of the Escape From Alcatraz triathlon, there has never been so much as a single shark sighting.  There’s been seals.  Pelicans.  Other wetsuited humans.  Pretty tame stuff.

I’ve been swimming in the Bay for fifteen years and consider the proximity of such liquid majesty one of San Francisco’s greatest gifts.  Raised on the high plains of Montana, I’d never put a toe in the ocean until I was thirteen.  The thrill of open water has never left me.

In my wetsuit and neoprene cap (no, I’ll never be one of those hearty Dolphin Club types), I feel a special kinship with the sleek-headed seals that sometimes bob nearby.  A real creature of water, just as they are.

As I swim, breathing one side then the other, I love taking in the city skyline looming white on one side and the dappled hills of Marin to the other, the rocky jetties lining the shore, to the soundtrack of calling gulls, clanging buoys, and sometimes the foghorn’s punctuated groans.  And when there is no foghorn, there’s the Golden Gate bridge, a red kiss against the blue of sky and sea.

Lucky, lucky me.

Lucky, every single one of us.

Bridget Quinn is a sports-obsessed amateur living in San Francisco. She is also a writer. Her Narrative Magazine memoir on swimming and sibling rivalry was included in The Best American Sports Writing 2013: http://www.narrativemagazine.com/issues/spring-2012/swim-two-girls. Her book of essays on women artists, Broad Strokes, is out Spring 2017 from Chronicle Books.

Painting Photos with Light

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Many artists work closely with the San Francisco Bay and draw inspiration directly from the Bay. Stefanie Atkinson is a professional photographer and creative designer. Stefanie’s Birds in Flight series captures light and movement along the Bay. She creates unique visual imagery for cross platform use in print, mobile, web, television, and video. Her fine art work has been in many group and solo shows and is available for purchase.

How long have you lived in the Bay Area and when did you starting photographing the Bay?

I’ve lived in the Bay Area since 1998. I started photographing around the Bay and estuaries when I moved out to Mill Valley in 2006.

What inspires you and why are you so drawn to the San Francisco Bay?

We are very lucky to be surrounded by water and protected open space here in the Bay area. I have always loved being around, on or in the water. Water and light inspire me and are an integral part of my work.

How would you describe your style of photography?

I would describe my style as naturalistic impressionism. It really stems from my curiosity about the way I see and the way other species and people see. For me it’s really about sharing how we all see differently.

My interest is in capturing in camera — I don’t manipulate the image afterwards. To me, I am painting with light. When I’m capturing the birds I’m playing with time, depth and movement. My finger is not on the button like it’s a trigger.  I’m moving with it. It’s more like the stroke of a brush. It’s like a dance to me. I love having an idea of what I am going to get and then the great mystery that comes with it.

Walk me through a day of shooting out on the Bay. What is your approach and how do you capture images for you Birds in Flight series?

I love waking up very early in the morning so I have time to be out before the sun and people rise. I like to see and hear the birds and animals when they are not affected by us.

I enjoy walking by the Bay. I also sit still, listen and just watch. There is so much going on when I sit quietly with it. Being by the water brings such a sense of peace. I just love seeing how every day is so completely different on the surface of the water. To me, the water is like a mirror – it’s easy to see how everything is constantly moving and changing. I photograph along the way.

Do you have any upcoming projects that you are working on?

Yes, I have a few projects that I am working on right now. They all involve my interest in Biomimicry and Biofeedback. Looking through the lens of how nature solves some of our human challenges is fascinating and offers much to learn, teach and share. There is much to do and I enjoy doing my part in it.

Another one of my projects involves UV light and water. I am photographing around the Bay. It’s very illuminating how much more there is to see and I love learning to see differently as it opens up whole new worlds of possibility and wonder.

Volunteer Spotlight | Thomas Huffman

Thomas Huffman and his Beta Alpha Psi brother's working hard to restore the MLK shoreline.
Thomas Huffman and his Beta Alpha Psi brother’s working hard to restore the MLK shoreline.

Here at Save The Bay we rely on dedicated volunteers to accomplish big goals. Beta Alpha Psi, an academic fraternity from CSU East Bay, is one of our devoted groups that has come out again and again to help with our restoration efforts. Last month we were able to get to know Thomas Huffman, a Beta Alpha Psi member, group organizer, and recent graduate, a bit better and learn about his experience with Save The Bay.

How many years have you volunteered with Save The Bay?

2 years

Do you have a favorite site?

Menlo Park

How did you get involved with Save The Bay?

Through my student organization, Beta Alpha Psi

What is the best thing about volunteering with Save The Bay?

Getting my hands dirty

What other activities or hobbies do you enjoy?

Surfing, cooking, playing guitar, and listening to records

Who is your environmental hero?

That fairy from Ferngully

What is one thing you do each day to protect the environment?

Pick up cigarette butts and throw them away

What is your first/fondest memory of San Francisco Bay?

Seeing a Double Rainbow at a restoration event at Ravenswood

Coming Back to the Bay

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When I left for college, I knew that I would miss the comforts of home: friends, family, my bed, home cooked meals, and the smiling face of my golden retriever.  What I didn’t realize was the extent to which I would miss the diverse coastal landscape of the San Francisco Bay.

When I first traveled to Walla Walla, Washington, the small town where Whitman College is located, I was surprised to see how bare the landscape was. Flying over Walla Walla, all I could see for miles and miles were fields of yellow and brown. Soon after arriving on campus I learned that these were wheat fields and that they surrounded the area. As I familiarized myself with my new home, I began to appreciate the vast horizon that a flat landscape created and the striking oranges and reds that filled the sky above the wheat fields at sunset.

Although I’ve become very fond of Walla Walla, the Bay Area will always have my heart, and every time I come home my love for the Bay seems to grow even more. I still distinctly remember the first time I returned to the Bay after beginning college. It was Thanksgiving break and I had been counting down the days for weeks. I loved school and all of the amazing friends that I had made, but I longed for the smell of salt marshes, for the sound of waves reaching the shore and for the feeling of sand tickling between my toes.

When the time finally came to fly home to Marin, I plugged in my headphones, closed my eyes and envisioned all of my favorite places: Kirby Cove, China Camp, Point Reyes National Seashore, the Stinson Bolinas Lagoon and Muir Beach. Images of early morning fog, Sausalito houseboats, and California poppies danced in my head. I pictured myself hiking the endless trails of Mount Tamalpais and looking out on the Bay from its peak.

Before I knew it, I heard the pilot come on the loudspeaker, announcing that it was time to put our tray tables up and our seats back. The window seat provided the perfect view of our descent into San Francisco. When I looked out at the Pacific, my heart filled with warmth. As we flew over the Marin Headlands, I caught my first glimpse of the Golden Gate, the bridge that had connected me from school to home for years. It was the golden hour, the time when the sun hangs just above the Bay, leaving a glimmering layer of light over the water’s surface right before it sets.

To this day, I still cannot accurately describe the way that coming home makes me feel or the unique perspective that flying over the Bay provides. I always knew that the Bay Area was a very special place and that I was extremely lucky to have grown up there, but it wasn’t until I left that I realized just how important the Bay is to me.

Working at Save The Bay this summer has allowed me to engage in environmental work that pertains to the places that I am most passionate about protecting. Learning about Save The Bay’s amazing founders and the legacy that they created has inspired me to fight for the places that I care about and has further instilled my love for the Bay.