The first time my science teacher taught me about climate change and the destructive impact it will have on our local communities and environment, I was devastated.
To me, easy access to the outdoors and the Bay shoreline is one of the best perks of living in the Bay Area. My earliest outdoor memory is when my Dad picked me up from kindergarten and took me to a creekside spot nestled in the foothills near Los Altos to beat the early summer heat. Without a care in the world, I splashed in the water, laughing so hard that my cheeks hurt.
Even today, I am my best self when walking along the Bay Trail or soaking in the views of the South Bay from its surrounding peaks. But I no longer visit these places just to have fun. The experience of being outside has helped me shed the burden of shouldering high expectations to do well in school and in life.
My love for the natural beauty of our region is no longer just an escape but is also a personal motivator. Today, as a member of the Communications Team at Save The Bay, I help brainstorm creative ways to inspire regional action on important issues including climate change, and carry out those messages via email, blogs, social media, and photography.
Right now is an exciting time to be part of the organization. In June, Bay Area voters will vote on Measure AA for a Clean and Healthy Bay — a $12 per year parcel tax to raise critical funds needed for restoration wetland restoration around the Bay. My primary focus now is to help spread the word to get Measure AA passed.
Driven by the same impulse to make a difference in their communities and address climate change, Ethan, Rachelle, and Zia have also joined the movement to save San Francisco Bay. Together we are fighting on multiple fronts to address one of the biggest problems our generation now faces.
Finding activist roots in the Bay Area
Pressuring local policy makers to adopt laws that help make the Bay pollution free and surrounding communities resilient to a changing world — that’s the role Save The Bay’s Policy Associate Ethan Tucker plays each day to make his new home an even more desirable place to live.
Shortly after graduating college with a degree in Political Science, Ethan packed his bags and moved across the country to begin a new life in the Bay Area. He thought joining Save The Bay would be a great way to learn more about the Bay and it environment, as well as to better understand the ongoing political struggle to protect it.
Even as a newcomer, he’ll tell you that the Bay makes everyday life spectacular. On the way to work Ethan takes in the sweeping view of the Bay, the City, the Bridge, and the hills of Marin.
“I love that the thing I’m working to protect is so visible, so tangible, and so much a part of everyday life here,” says Ethan. “It makes the work feel really real.”
Even though Ethan’s work isn’t directly connected to the ballot measure, his work is still aligned with the mission to save the Bay. He hopes to see young voters carry on in that same spirit by passing Measure AA this June because it will show the world that we are committed to a more sustainable future.
Inspiring local volunteers
Also committed to passing a vitally important measure and inspiring others to do the same is Save The Bay’s Restoration Education and Community Engagement Specialist and Bay Area native Rachelle Cardona.
“The most rewarding part of my job is when my work has a noticeable impact on a volunteer or members of the public,” Rachelle exclaims. “Often times, people walking by our restoration sites while we are working congratulate us on a job well done and thank us for saving the Bay!”
For the past two years, she’s helped connect nearly 15,000 community volunteers to the edge of the Bay. Just last year, over 6,000 volunteers helped put over 12,000 native plants in the ground. As impressive as that is, Rachelle is quick to point out that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done and can only be done if Measure AA passes.
Our Bay wetlands help sustain life and are even capable of protecting communities from sea level rise. According to scientists, the Bay needs 100,000 acres of wetlands to thrive. At this moment, only 45,000 acres have been restored and more than 30,000 shoreline acres are already awaiting restoration, but the missing piece is funding.
Acting on climate
To make matters worse, compared to other bodies of water in the United States, San Francisco Bay receives almost no federal help. And it’s that lack of support that also fires up Save The Bay’s newest Policy Fellow, Zia Grossman-Vendrillo.
“I don’t want my community to wait for a disaster to happen before feeling motivated to protect our shoreline and wetlands,” Zia tells me. “Supporting initiatives for climate adaptation and preparedness is crucial not just for the Bay and its wildlife, but also our low-lying bayside communities and economy.”
Like all of us, the Bay also has a special place in Zia’s heart. Fond memories of biking along the Richmond shoreline after school, watching the sunset over the Bay with her friends, and the story of how the Bay was saved from complete destruction in the 1960s are what inspires her to act on climate.
Prior to joining the movement to save San Francisco Bay, Zia and her friends traveled to New York City to march alongside 30,000 friends at the People’s Climate March in 2014.
In her blog, she writes, “In that moment, I didn’t feel like my actions and ideals were insignificant. I didn’t feel hopeless. My concerns and beliefs were real, they were powerful, and they were echoed and seen in the voices and faces of the strangers around me.”
The truth about climate change is much more than an inconvenience; it’s a global issue that demands our attention locally at this moment in time.
In our lifetime, Bay waters will rise 16 inches by 2050, scientists forecast unpredictable weather patterns and more intense storms — flooding miles of roadways and communities that are built at sea level.
While it may seem daunting and impossible to take on such big issues like climate change, it is possible for us to take the first step by voting YES on Measure AA for a Clean and Healthy Bay this June.
Your “Yes” vote will help raise $500 million to finally put large-scale restoration projects into motion and help create even more success stories, like the recent levee breaches at Sears Point in Sonoma and Bair Island near Redwood City.
“Young people have the most to gain from the clean and healthy bay measure,” says Ethan. “This whole process is about having a say in what the Bay Area looks like in years to come.”
By voting yes on Measure AA, we can all help keep San Francisco Bay thriving for years to come by funding restoration projects for the next 20 years. If you ask me, $12 a year is a small price to pay for sustaining a body of water that’s been a big part of my life and the lives of everyone who has will call the Bay Area home.