A little over a year ago, California voters became the first in the United States to approve a single-use plastic bag ban. With the passage of Proposition 67, Californians took a stand to protect our state’s diverse and fragile environmental systems from being further harmed by plastic bag litter. One year later, we are proud to say that the ban has been successful in reducing the amount of plastic that reaches local waterways and harms wildlife and water quality.
Data from Coastal Clean-Up Day shows that there has been a 72% decline in plastic bag litter from 2010, and plastic bags now account for only 1.5% of total litter compared to 10% seven years before. Furthermore, it cost the state $400 million, or about $10 per resident, to clean up littered bags prior to the ban.
Far from going unnoticed, California’s plastic bag ban set a trend. Hawaii decided to implement its own statewide bag ban, and municipalities across Massachusetts and Washington have taken the same step to protect waterways and wildlife. While many states have yet to follow our example, Californians should be proud of the fact that we have proven ourselves once again to be leaders in protecting both local and global waters from toxic plastic pollution.
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.
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.
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.
It’s a new year, which in the case of 2017 means a new Congress and a new administration in Washington, D.C. Many of us in the Bay Area have a palpable sense of unease about what the impending changes in the federal government mean for the Bay and the environment more broadly. And on no issue is this concern felt more deeply than the fight to address climate change and its impacts.
Environmental advocates in the Bay Area – and California as a whole – are determined and prepared to advance this fight, and we at Save The Bay are doing everything we can to ensure that climate change remains front and center in regional, state, and federal agendas over the coming years.
Here is what we are doing to make this happen:
On the local level
As the Bay Area rapidly grows in the coming years, we can help ensure that the growth happens in a way that minimizes the impact on the Bay and adapts to climate change. This is the aim of our new Bay Smart Communities Program, which promotes investment in green infrastructure, low-impact development, transit-oriented development, and increased affordable housing along the Bay. These “smart growth” components have a number of significant climate change-related benefits, including:
On the state Level
We are fortunate to live in a state that has led the nation in the fight against climate change. Gov. Jerry Brown and our state legislature have already committed to pursuing continued aggressive action regardless of what happens in Washington, D.C. In 2017 and beyond, Save The Bay will:
On the federal level
Despite what we expect to be a more climate-change skeptical and anti-environment leadership in Washington, D.C., over the next few years we will be more aggressive than ever in asserting the importance of federal environmental protection laws, regulations, and strong action on climate change. Already, we have:
Together, we made a lot of progress on addressing climate change in the Bay in 2016, and Save The Bay is committed to intensifying the fight in 2017 and beyond.
On a Bay Discovery program, Khan Lab School students willfully pulled invasive mustard and radish to help create natural wildlife habitat for endangered species like the Ridgway’s rail and the salt marsh harvest mouse. Leading up to this program, the students had already investigated the varying endangered species that live in the Bay Area. Fueled by the project–based learning approach of Khan Lab School, these students did extraordinary research on local endangered species and completed awe-inspiring projects to share their knowledge about their respective species and help protect them.
I was lucky to attend Khan Lab School’s Endangered Species Carnival, a culminating event that was designed to raise awareness and funds in their local community of Mountain View. This Endangered Species Carnival was so inspirational! I still get goose bumps when I think about the dedication and hard work that each and every student put into their project about the species they chose. Community members cashed in carnival tickets to participate in the numerous fun and educational activities centered on endangered species.
A unique carnival
At the Maker Space, there were arts and crafts to re-create the salt marsh harvest mouse, western snowy plover, and the Mt. Hermon beetle. At the Game Center, participants learned about the Bay Checkerspot butterfly, the Delta smelt, the Bald Eagle, and the San Francisco garter snake. There was also Test Your Brain, an endangered species themed form of Jeopardy, complete with podiums and student crafted buzzers. In Colorful Caterpillars, participants hid a paper caterpillar underneath leaves to protect it from predators. The test? A robotic predator programmed by students to hunt for the caterpillar, and if you hid your caterpillar well in the environment, then it survived to become a San Bruno Elfin Butterfly! At the Save The Whales booth, gamers were given 3 ping pong balls to hit easy, medium or hard targets and learned about the threats humans impose on whales. In addition to all of these games, there was a student-engineered hover board ride, photo booths, and a delightful snack stand, complete with chocolate pacific pond turtles and snow cones.
The most moving part of Khan Lab School’s Endangered Species Carnival was the excitement and wonder in every child’s eyes about these species. They were eager to talk about their experiences throughout the school year and how we can all make a difference. The choreographed finale was easily the showstopper of the carnival. I was even inspired to buy a t-shirt printed with “Endangered Species Carnival”, and brimmed with pride thinking about how each student will affect the world around them. Last but not least, the proceeds were donated to multiple non-profits around the Bay Area that work to protect endangered species, including Save The Bay.