Scott Pruitt’s EPA: A dark day for America

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Today, the U.S. Senate confirmed Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

This is a big victory for polluters, and a huge loss for America and our Bay.

The danger Scott Pruitt poses to San Francisco Bay is very real. The EPA has a central role in protecting the Bay, particularly by enforcing the Clean Water Act. For years, Pruitt has been a fierce opponent of that law—along with many other critical environmental protections. As Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt attacked the EPA’s cleanup of Chesapeake Bay—a case that’s directly relevant to future of San Francisco Bay.

So much of the progress we have achieved is under threat all over again. Restorable wetlands we’ve fought successfully to protect—like the Cargill Salt Ponds in Redwood City—are newly vulnerable.

The scary truth is, as long as Scott Pruitt leads the EPA, we cannot count on our federal government to protect the Bay. In this new era, environmental progress and protection will be fought and won locally. That’s why Save The Bay’s effective work with Bay cities and state agencies is more important than ever. To beat Pruitt and the anti-environment Congress, we need more resources to block wetlands destruction, create critical habitat for fish and wildlife, and reduce trash and toxic pollution from cities.

We are ready to fight—here’s what we’re doing:

  • Pushing back fiercely against every effort to undermine environmental protections
  • Pressuring California’s elected leaders to offset disastrous environmental policies from the Trump Administration with strong statewide protections
  • Rallying local communities as grassroots activists and environmental volunteers to protect and restore our Bay

It’s a dark time for environmental protection in America, but we’ve been here before and persevered. We’ve been mobilizing grassroots victories since 1961—before the EPA, before the Clean Water Act … before “environmentalist” was even a word. Today, our work is more essential than ever, and we won’t shy away from the fight.


Are you looking for a way to resist the Trump Administration’s assault on the environment? We need your support.

Welcome Silas, our new Restoration Project Specialist

Silas Ellison (far right)
Silas Ellison (far right) joins Save The Bay’s restoration team as a Restoration Project Specialist after a career driven by conservation and education efforts in the Bay Area.

The imminent threat to biodiversity here in the Bay Area has driven my career in conservation, and it’s what makes me so excited to join the restoration team at Save The Bay as their new Restoration Project Specialist.

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My work to establish new populations of the endangered Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog is one of the many roads that have led me to further my conservation career here at Save The Bay.

I feel so lucky to be part of this effort to restore critical habitat for the 100+ threatened and endangered species that call the Bay Area home.  Together with our dedicated volunteers and supporters, I know that we can restore the 100,000 acres of tidal marsh that experts believe the Bay needs to support a fully-functioning ecosystem.

Biodiversity on our planet is in the middle of an unprecedented crisis.  Extinctions are occurring faster than at any point in the past 65 million years—amphibians, for example, are disappearing 1,000 times faster than the historical average.  Extinctions have become so common and so widespread that a new consensus is emerging among scientists:  we are in the middle of the world’s sixth mass extinction.

I saw these effects firsthand when I was studying disease ecology and amphibian declines in the Vance Thomas Vredenburg Lab at San Francisco State University.  As a graduate student and lab manager, I collaborated with a team of government agencies and academic institutions to establish new populations of the endangered Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog, which has been devastated by invasive species and infectious disease (approximately 96 percent of these frog populations have been completely wiped out!).  I also used advanced molecular technology to study the community dynamics of bacteria and other microbes that live on the frogs’ skin.  I am fascinated by the interactions in an ecosystem that range across scales, connecting the tiniest of micro-organisms and their hosts to large-scale forces like tides that shape entire landscapes.

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Over the past several years, I’ve also had the opportunity to help protect several different habitat types around the Bay Area that include Presidio in SF and Mount Diablo State Park.

I am very excited to help our community to make these kinds of connections through our public and educational volunteer programs.

Earlier in my career, I worked as a middle school math and science teacher at a low-performing, under-resourced school in East Palo Alto.  Seeing students’ eyes light up as they learned about the natural world was truly an inspiration, and it’s one of the experiences that made me decide to pursue a career in conservation.  I am especially delighted that some of our primary restoration sites, like the Palo Alto Baylands and Bair Island, are located so close to East Palo Alto. This position provides me with an exciting opportunity to re-engage with these students in the area, and to help connect communities to the thriving Bay ecosystem right outside their doorsteps.

It has been so fun and energizing to work with so many people at our public volunteer programs over the past three months, and I look forward to meeting many more amazing volunteers at upcoming work days.  I strongly encourage anyone who has not yet had a chance to volunteer with Save The Bay this season, to come help plant the 35,000 native seedlings that we are planning to install before the end of the rainy season!  Together we can restore the Bay’s tidal marshes, fight against the sixth mass extinction, and preserve the incredible biodiversity of our beloved San Francisco Bay.

Communicating the Science that will Safeguard California

Save The Bay Executive Director David Lewis speaks at the 2017 California Climate Change Symposium in Sacramento.
Save The Bay Executive Director David Lewis speaks at the 2017 California Climate Change Symposium in Sacramento.

Environmental scientists, researchers, advocates, and policy makers descended upon Sacramento’s downtown district last week for the 2017 California Climate Change Symposium. The symposium served as a forum for veteran researchers, scientists, and newbies like myself from across the state and from across multiple disciplines, to share their research.

I really don’t think the timing could have been better.

With the assertion that global warming is still up for debate among the Trump administration’s top leaders, the symposium felt like an oasis of thoughtful discussion on safeguarding California from our planet’s changing climate. Emerging research ranged from drought and water management, to ocean acidification and hypoxia, to rising sea levels.

A sense of urgency and a need for climate facts as opposed to “alternative facts” was interlaced throughout the plenary sessions, making the significance of constant discussion about climate change even more clear and evident.  Save The Bay Executive Director David Lewis served as a panelist for a lunch session titled, “Communicating Science to California Public & Policymakers.” Lewis stressed the importance of focusing communication efforts on local and state elected leaders.

“How many people in the room talk to elected officials? You need to push them to do twice as much twice as fast, and the ones who aren’t doing anything, you need to push them to do something now,” said Lewis.  “It can be your local city council member who can do things in your town to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and to prepare for adaptation. That’s where we need to focus our communication.”

Communication is central to what I do here at Save The Bay. Every day my team and I look for new tools and tactics that will inform and educate our grassroots community about threats to the Bay. It’s my job to make science and data sexy to an audience that is being bombarded with sensational content every single minute. This poses both a challenge and an opportunity to reach audiences across the spectrum. Climate change is certainly a hot topic at the center of a contentious debate between those who have made environmental advocacy their life’s work, and those who would rather rest on “alternative facts” to further their own selfish political agendas. I left the symposium ready to find new ways to engage our audience in the issues surrounding climate change, and introduce them to some of the groundbreaking research I had the chance to observe.

Understanding the science that safeguards California will become more urgent than ever before as we move closer into the unprecedented aftermath of a Trump presidency.  Developing programs, strategies, and policies that will reduce greenhouse gasses and encourage adaptation to rising sea levels on the state and local level will remain crucial to California scientists and advocates.

Our future generations are depending on it.

A Look Back at the Women’s March

On Jan. 21, 2017 I joined over 1 million women, families and activists to send a visceral message about our values. This is what you find when you choose to show up for what you believe in.
On Jan. 21, 2017 I joined over 1 million women, families and activists to send a visceral message about our values. This is what you find when you choose to show up for what you believe in.

I bought my tickets for the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. two days after the election while overwhelmed by emotion and anger. It had been years since I’d been to a march. As a working mom, I started seeing my pride in and role of building partnerships at Save The Bay as my daily contribution to making the world a better place. So I arrived in Washington, D.C. before Inauguration Day feeling hopeless like many others. I was sick, missing my son and community back in Oakland, and not wanting to believe that the United States was about to swear in a dangerous and corrupt President Donald J. Trump.

“We all have the opportunity to be a part of a massive, new movement. We all must show up.”

 

But my despair was met with hope on Jan. 21, 2017—and I joined an estimated 1 Million women, families and activists to send a visceral message about our values.  And that is what you find when you choose to show up for what you believe in. You connect with others and experience moments of solidarity and cooperation for divisive days ahead.

We were walking for different issues, but walking together to uphold shared democratic values of equality, dignity, and care for fellow human beings.
We were walking for different issues, but walking together to uphold shared democratic values of equality, dignity, and care for fellow human beings.

My small marching group was a hodgepodge of friends and family: a scientist, a journalist, a social worker, and an environmentalist. We collectively represented a range of aspirations from criminal justice reform to investing in scientific research and addressing climate change to safeguarding LGBTQ rights. We were walking for different issues, but walking together to uphold shared democratic values of equality, dignity, and care for fellow human beings.

Cheering traveled through an unending sea of faces and signs like waves. It was massive. The crowd was exuberant, most forgetting all of the effort it took to get there. We bought plane tickets, traveled long distances, organized, and prepared ourselves for the long cold walk ahead. At one point we got trapped in the National Mall, and people began boosting each other up on posts. People lent helping hands and words of encouragement as we all took turns one-by-one, vaulting three feet above the crowd to take in the full view. Before the march officially started, the route that was originally mapped out for us was already full and no marching could take place.  Enormous groups took alternative streets to march to the White House. We marched and waited hours to deposit signs on a fence that sent a clear message, “We are the 51 percent minority.”

My small marching group was a hodgepodge of friends and family: a scientist, a journalist, a social worker, and an environmentalist.

The Women’s March in Washington, D.C. shook me up and inspired me to find new ways to live my days in hope and connection with other people. My eyes are wide open.  Resistance to the Trump Administration’s incredible power grab is going to require daily persistence. We all have the opportunity to find local spaces to show up and integrate taking action into our daily lives to protect the most vulnerable people and the planet. Because of the Women’s March, I will not forget that not only am I a Bay Saver, but I am also a part of the people’s majority and one of millions. We all have the opportunity to be a part of a massive, new movement. We all must show up.

Why I Will March 

I will participate in the Women's March in Oakland on Saturday, Jan. 21 not just for Save The Bay, but for all of my values and all of the communities that I hold dear.
I will participate in the Women’s March in Oakland on Saturday, Jan. 21 not just for Save The Bay, but for all of my values and all of the communities that I hold dear.

I distinctly remember my first protest march.  My school’s soccer team was supposed to play the Columbine soccer team the day of the now-infamous mass shooting.  The NRA’s annual convention was slated to be held in downtown Denver days after the shooting took place.  They did not cancel their convention out of respect for the victims, as many had hoped they would.

So, we marched.  We circled their hotel, holding hands, singing songs, and crying.  I was 17 years old.

My next protest march took place in downtown Boston.  Under the leadership of George W. Bush, the U.S. had just invaded Iraq.  As a graduating senior with a degree in modern political history, I was bursting with ideas and passion.  After all, I had just learned how world wars were started – power games between state and non-state actors, alliances, domino effects.  My friends and I were convinced the invasion was a mistake, and while we didn’t know it at the time, we would end up being right.

So, we marched.

A year or so later, now freshly ensconced in the progressive Bay Area, a friend asked if I wanted to join something called the March for Women’s Lives in Washington, D.C.  Women’s equality, fair pay, and reproductive freedom have always been cornerstone values for me, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to join with thousands of others in celebrating and advancing them.  And so, ignoring the hordes of anti-choice protesters holding graphic signs, we marched.  That march changed my life and led me to work professionally on women’s reproductive health issues for nearly a decade.

 you cannot isolate reproductive freedom from environmental justice, racial inequity from economic achievement, or education from poverty.” 

 

Now it is 2017, and I am no longer a fresh-faced teenager or an idealistic college student.  I’m a mother, a wife, and a leader at a respected environmental organization.  I am much more aware of my privilege, which has influenced in uncountable ways the opportunities I have been given and successes I have achieved.  I am acutely attuned to the connectivity of privilege, and how you cannot isolate reproductive freedom from environmental justice, racial inequity from economic achievement, or education from poverty.  These issues are inextricably linked – to march for one value means marching for them all.

And so, this Saturday, Jan. 21, I will march in Oakland, this time joined by my husband and our two-year-old son.  I will march for women’s reproductive justice and equality. I will march because Black Lives Matter, and I cannot escape nor deny my own white privilege or that of my son’s. I will march against climate change deniers because facts are facts, and in the coastal Bay Area we are on the front lines of this battle.  I will march for peace around the world and in the streets of Oakland, the city I now call home. I will march for my friends and family members who don’t conform to typical gender roles and should have the same freedom to follow their hearts and love who they love.  I will march for immigrants because less than two generations ago it was my grandmother on the boat far from her home seeking a better life.

I will represent Save The Bay at this march, but not just Save The Bay.  When I march on Saturday, I will be marching for all of my values and all of the communities that I hold dear.

I hope you will march with me.