A Salute to Bay Area Mountains on International Mountain Day

Mount Diablo Mountains International Mountain Day Bay Area
A view of Mount Diablo, by John Morgan on Flickr

Covering a whopping 27 percent of the earth’s surface, mountains – those stunning geological wonders that rise out of the bedrock in all shapes and sizes and levels of majesty – are amazingly crucial to our planet’s overall well-being.

One tenth of the world’s population gets its life support directly from mountains. These same mountains are also a lifeline for millions of lowland towns, cities, and villages. Add that up, and pretty much all of us benefit from mountains in one way or another. Why? In case you need a little Biology 101 refresher, mountains are the sources of all the world’s major rivers, and many smaller ones. They help capture moisture from the clouds (causing rain), and gather snow to be stored until spring and summer, when it melts. In arid and semi-arid regions, over 90 percent of river flow comes from mountains. In short, they are the bringers of water, and we all need water to live.

Today, December 11, is International Mountain Day – a day of recognition mandated by the United Nations in 2003. The UN uses International Mountain Day as a way to spotlight the importance of sustainable mountain development (because mountains provide resources like water, energy and food that are becoming increasingly scarce). While many resources are abundant in mountainous regions, these same regions are also vulnerable to climate change, deforestation, and natural disasters.

Here in the Bay Area, we’ve got a few mountains of our own, and we count ourselves lucky that many of them are protected under land preservation laws, so their beauty, mystery, and wildlife can remain unadulterated. It couldn’t hurt to tip your hat to these beauties in honor of the life, inspiration, and opportunity for adventure they give us. We’ve chosen a few of our favorites below.

Mount Diablo

Aside from having some major video game street cred, Mount Diablo is the prime locale (and one of the Bay’s highest peaks, at 3,864 feet!) for hikers and bikers to score sweeping views of the Bay and its surrounding cities from the East Bay.

The two best trails that offer Mount Diablo’s famous views are via the mountain’s summit and the Grand Loop. The general exploration of the Mount Diablo State Park will eventually get you to the summit, because, after all, that is the cherry on top. It’s an easy 4-mile, 1-3 hour trail that, on a clear day, will give you a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Farallon Islands, Mount Loma Prieta, Mount St. Helena, and way more. The 3-4 hour, 6.2-mile hour Grand Loop boasts a bird’s-eye view of the Bay Area, enabling hikers to gaze out over the Bay and beyond, to the Farallon Islands, Santa Cruz Mountains, Mount Lassen, and the Sierra Nevada.

If you’re a hardcore cyclist, be sure to check out the Save Mount Diablo Challenge, a timed 11.2 mile rile to the mountain’s summit for a different way to experience the mountain.

Mount Tamalpais

Hundreds of miles of trails cover Mount Tamalpais, so whether you’re on foot or on two wheels (mountain biking was, after all, literally invented on Mount Tam), grab a map and get thee to the top. If you haven’t been to the 2,572 foot summit, you’ve probably seen countless Instagrams of the view from your friends who’ve made it to the finish line. The mountain has three summits: the West, Middle, and East Peaks. While the East Peak is the most popular thanks to its gorgeous view of the San Francisco skyline, almost every hike to the top offers amazing vantage points looking out over the ocean, Bay, cities, bridges, and all the attributes that make the Bay Area glorious: fog, sunsets, rocky outcroppings, water falls, wild flowers, ocean cliffs, beaches, and way more.

Mount Davidson

Right in the heart of the city lays San Francisco’s highest peak – Mount Davidson. While it’s not quite as formidable as other Bay Area mountains, its manageable 928 foot summit and heart-of-the-city locale make it perfect for a quick jaunt to the top. Foot trails criss-cross the mountain, so depending on whether you want a looped route or a there-and-back route, it’s definitely a choose-your-own-adventure type of experience. In all, the hike through towering eucalyptus and pine trees takes about an hour, and the summit not only hosts a very bizarre, 103-foot cross at the top (read about its history here), but a front row view of Sutro Tower across the way, sweeping views of the city, Oakland, and Berkeley beyond the Bay’s glittering waters.

San Bruno Mountain

Bike or hike along the San Bruno Mountain range to view San Francisco, the East Bay, and the Bay itself looking north. Not only is the mountain covered in gorgeous wildflowers in the spring and extremely popular among cyclists, it was once a hotbed of controversy back in the early 1970’s.

We’ll give you a little history lesson: As the Bay Area’s population continued to grow and expand, David Rockefeller schemed to develop and fill an area of the South Bay the size of Manhattan to make way for residences, restaurants, and industry. Rockefeller funded the West Bay Communities Associates – Crocker Land Co., Ideal Cement Co., and investment banking firm Lazard Freres & Co. – to get the bay fill project underway. Crocker Land Co. owned San Bruno Mountain, and to reap even more real estate development, the company hatched a plan to chop off the entire top of the mountain off. Can you imagine? Read how local residents took West Bay Communities Associates to court and stopped their plans.

Here in the Bay, we are blessed with so many life-giving mountains, and even the Bay itself has the Sierras and their snowpack to thank for its rippling waters. What are your favorite Bay Area mountains?

3 Thanksgiving Dinner Icebreakers for a Less Awkward Holiday

Thanksgiving San Francisco Bay Conversation Icebreakers Pollution Bag Ban Plastic Industry Cigarette Butts
Don’t hide from your relatives this Thanksgiving! Our 3 icebreakers will impress everyone at your Thanksgiving table. Photo via Rick Lewis

No one should have to suffer through awkward conversation over a plate of roast turkey and green bean casserole. Because, let’s face it, many of us would give almost anything to escape your siblings’ arguments, or grandmother’s well-meant but still annoying nit-picking over what you’re doing with your life.

Instead, take control of your destiny this Thanksgiving with our list of conversation icebreakers. Break your family out of its Thanksgiving rut and get a healthy debate going by reaching for one of these conversation topics instead of your 5th helping of stuffing.

1. “Hey Grandma, have you heard about California’s horrific drought?”

For the well-connected lot of us, talk of Cali’s drought on social media and various news outlets around the country is hard to escape – and many of us have changed our ways to deal with it. But there are a surprising amount of people who don’t realize our state’s drought impacts everything from ski season in Tahoe to the food and wine on our Thanksgiving tables to the wildlife with which we share our resources. Now is not the time to be bashful when it comes to raising awareness about the drought. Despite recent rains, we need a lot more water. Check out these stark photos of the High Sierras that show the lack of snow.

2. “Did you guys know that 3 billion cigarette butts are littered in the Bay Area every year and many of them flow into San Francisco Bay?”

Your Aunt Margaret still smokes? That’s okay –she probably knows she should quit anyway. Just make sure she knows that cigarette butts are one of the worst pollutants threatening the health of San Francisco Bay, as an affectionate reminder that her butts should end up in trashcans, not the pavement or storm drains. Here at Save The Bay, we’re taking it a step further by offering passionate folks a way to tell our Bay Area leaders to adopt and enforce various outdoor smoking bans. If your family and friends feel the same way you do (doesn’t it seem like everyone has an opinion on smoking?), encourage them to sign our petition here.

3. “So how about that bag ban?”

You take your trusty reusable bags wherever you go. You know that pesky, feather-light plastic bags often end up in our waterways, and stay in landfills forever – which is why California’s new statewide bag ban is the best law ever. Unlike many, you also know that Big Plastic is pouring millions of dollars into armies of paid signature collectors who spread lies in order to get a bag ban referendum on the ballot in November 2016. Their deadline is the end of 2014, so there’s still time for action. Rally your own troops (your family!) and tell them there’s a way to stop Big Plastic in its delusional, money-grubbing tracks by refusing to sign any petitions about the bag ban and telling their friends. They’ll be thankful you gave them an excuse to shake off their tryptophan-induced coma.

Now you’re armed and ready for another (slightly less awkward) family gathering! Only this time, you might just end up the star of the show, instead of your mom’s beloved pumpkin pie.

 

How You Can Show Save The Bay Some Love on #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday Volunteering Save The Bay Restoraion Volunteers Habitat
Volunteering with Save The Bay is one of the many amazing ways you can give back on #GivingTuesday! Photo by Adrienne Warmsley

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday. This formidable trio of dates are all about buying, buying, buying. But what about giving back? This year, Save The Bay is joining #GivingTuesday, a nationwide social media movement especially for nonprofits and other charitable organizations to mobilize their online communities into giving back.

Save The Bay offers three easy ways for our beloved community to get in on the #GivingTuesday action. So, in the generous and grateful spirit of the holiday season, read on and choose how you can show Save The Bay some love:

Volunteer!

Save The Bay thrives on its volunteers. From November 2013 to November 2014, 5,748 volunteers logged 18,821 hours, put 21,393 plants in the ground, removed 34,558 invasive plant species, and collected 6,815 pounds of trash! How amazing is that? And the Bay is getting healthier and stronger because of all your hard work. #GivingTuesday is the perfect time to gather your friends, family, or organization together and pledge to get outside, have a blast, and lend Save The Bay a hand. We have public restoration programs every Saturday! Sign up to volunteer today.

Donate!

This #GivingTuesday, become a Bay Sustainer. Bay Sustainers are a special group of Save The Bay members who offer regular monthly gifts to support our critical work to protect and restore San Francisco Bay. With your regular monthly gifts we can build a reliable foundation that helps us plan for the future – while saving the expense of renewal notices. Plus, Bay Sustainers receive an awesome, super-soft Save The Bay t-shirt, designed in collaboration with Oaklandish, in return for your commitment to us. Click here so you can start bragging to your friends about your Bay Sustainer status today.

Take Action!

Here at Save The Bay, we’re experts at telling lawmakers what we’re passionate about and why. We depend on people like you to send a strong message to decision makers about what matters to Bay Area residents. Right now, we’re calling on cities throughout the Bay Area to stop cigarette butt litter — one of the worst pollution problems facing the Bay — at its source by adopting and enforcing outdoor smoking bans that keep cigarette butts out of our Bay waters. Sign on to express your concern for cigarette butt litter and the effect it has on public health and the health of our Bay.

Join us on #GivingTuesday by showing how much you care for San Francisco Bay. Volunteer, donate, take action, tag Save The Bay on Facebook or Tweet at us and tell the world about why you’re thankful for our gorgeous Bay, using hashtags #GivingTuesday and #sfbaylove. With your help on social media and in the field on #GivingTuesday and beyond, San Francisco Bay’s flora, fauna, and rippling waters will become even more glorious than they already are.

Don’t Want Mutant Fish in the Bay? Advocate for Tougher Drug Take-Back Programs in SF

Medication Pills Drug Take-back Programs Legislation Environment
Will San Francisco be the next county to pass sweeping drug take-back program legislation? Photo via Michael Chen on Flickr

As usual, Bay Area counties are ahead of the curve when it comes to making change. Back in 2012, Alameda County became the first in the nation to require pharmaceutical companies to pay for a drug take-back program, upping the ante for giant pharmaceutical companies to take responsibility for their products and raising awareness about the dangers of flushing unused medication into the Bay Area’s waterways.

It was a bold move, and now it looks like San Francisco County is eyeing similar legislation. Instead of taxpayers footing the bill, local Supervisor David Chiu recently began advocating for the funding of drug take-back programs to fall under the responsibility of pharmaceutical corporations. He told the San Francisco Chronicle this month that with this legislation, he seeks to prevent overdoses as well as to reduce contaminants in water – water that all eventually flows into our beloved Bay.

It turns out our wastewater treatment plants don’t have the technology to filter pharmaceutical chemicals ­ – they’re only designed to remove conventional pollutants such as solids and biodegradable materials. Yet for decades, drug companies and doctors told the public to flush unused and unwanted medications down the toilet. That sounds pretty gross in retrospect, but we all know hindsight is 20/20; recent studies have found traces of medications in surface water bodies across the country. The thought of seven-gill sharks and stingrays swimming around the Bay loaded with hormones, codeine and aspirin is pretty depressing, don’t you think?

You might be asking what all that medication does to aquatic life on a biological and physiological level. Scientists know for a fact that increased medications in surface water bodies have led to increased resistance to antibiotics, interference with growth and reproduction in sensitive organisms like fish and frogs – even at low levels of exposure. Effects of exposure can include off-kilter gender ratios (more females than males); the presence of both male and female reproductive organs on individual animals; plummeting birth rates; decreased fertility and growth; and lethargy and disorientation.

Let’s take a break from the icky details. Back in 2010, San Francisco County attempted to pass a law like Alameda County’s, but the plan buckled under industry pressure. The result was a slimmed-down, taxpayer-financed pilot program that consists of drop-off sites at nearly two dozen independent pharmacies and police stations. SFGate.com reports that the program has collected more than 37,000 pounds of medications over the last two years, and costs roughly $162,000 a year to operate – most of which is unreimbursed city staff time.

Fast forward to 2014, and San Francisco County is finally ready to take it a step further, inspired by Alameda County’s victory. If passed, Chiu’s law would establish drug drop-off sites at ALL retail and health care facilities that sell drugs. And, the cherry on top: the law would require drugmakers that make drugs sold in San Francisco to pay all administrative and operational costs of the program.

There are 7 million people living in the Bay Area. While not everyone is flushing medication down the toilet on the regular, our large population (which is booming, by the way), without any public awareness on the issue, still makes for a potentially huge amount of medication contaminants making their way into our waterways. That’s why successful legislation like this in San Francisco (which can lead to a domino effect around California, followed by statewide legislation – fingers crossed!) could be a boon to not only our drinking water supplies, but our streams, waterways, and the Bay – our crowned jewel.

In the meantime, check out our resource guide to Pharmaceutical Disposal Sites to responsibly discard your unwanted and unused medication.

Reality Check for Big Plastic: 60% of California Supports the Bag Ban

Bag Ban Referendum Plastics Industry Pollution Plastic Bags
Plastic bags are a blight on the environment, no matter how the plastics industry spins it. Photo via Anthony Fine on Flickr.

Hot button issues like the passing of recent statewide bag ban – the first of its kind in the nation, thanks to Governor Jerry Brown and the hard work of thousands of like-minded activists (at the state and local level) – never fail to bring out the best and worst in people.

When it was signed into law on September 30th, victory bells rang, birds flew triumphantly through the air, ocean wildlife breathed a sigh of relief, and life went on much as it did before the bag ban passed. Employment rates did not plunge (bag ban opponents claimed they would), and no one except for the grumpiest of grumbly Republicans complained of government overreach. Statewide support for the bag ban remains strong.

Although its impact stands to keep billions, yes, billions of plastic bags out of landfills and our waterways, prevent them from harming the environment for centuries (because plastic literally does not biodegrade), and save Californians millions and millions of dollars collectively each year, plastic bag manufacturers still want the law overturned.

Why? So they can keep making money, of course! If you want a good chuckle, read the comical propaganda manufacturing giants like Novolex have concocted to distract you from their ulterior motives. Some of our favorite bogus statements are outlined in this LA Times’ editorial by columnist David Lazarus, which calls out the plastics industry’s claims and smartly compares its current position to the car industry’s opposition to seat belt laws.

But they aren’t simply spreading misinformation via websites and social media. Bag ban opponents are going full throttle on a referendum to reverse the law. They’ve got street teams all over California collecting signatures (they need 500,000 by the year’s end to make it onto the November 2016 ballot) to reverse all the progress our state has already made. Now, there’s a way to stop them. Californians Against Waste is asking people to report signature gathering using this form. Just last week, Save The Bay spotted a paid signature collector in downtown Oakland outside of our local Rite Aid – and we reported him. CAW will then use this information to put bag ban advocates on the ground to counteract opponents’ efforts, hold media stunts, and inform the public as to why the bag ban is crucial for the health and vibrancy of California.

So yes, even though we’ve won the battle against the bags for now, we have to stay on our toes and keep that victory in our grasp. Help send a message to the plastics industry that they are on the wrong side of history and report any paid signature gatherers here.