Bay Crossings Article

Embracing the Spirit of Earth Day while Sheltering in Place

Sejal Choksi-Chugh
From the April 2020 edition of Bay Crossings

Did you know this year marks the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day?  

My staff would normally be tabling at festivals around the Bay Area, organizing volunteers at shoreline trash cleanups, and hosting happy hours at local restaurants to toast the Bay we love. Yet here we are instead, celebrating the Earth inside our homes.

The first Earth Day was organized in 1970 as outrage mounted over the devastating 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill. The momentum triggered the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and important environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act.

Two decades later, on a body of water a few hundred miles north of Santa Barbara, a research scientist named Mike Herz was worried about the declining health of San Francisco Bay. From the bow of his boat, he could see that even though the country had new anti-pollution laws, no one was enforcing them.

He had recently heard about Hudson River fishermen who formed a Riverkeeper group to stop industries from dumping toxic pollution and killing the fish – their livelihood. From his vantage point on the Bay, Mike could see that a similar type of citizen watchdog was needed here. His idea was to hold polluters accountable using the Clean Water Act – and a patrol boat.

And for Baykeeper, the rest is history. For the past thirty years, we’ve been a fierce champion for the health of the Bay and the people who depend on it. We've protected the Bay from oil tankers and dirty coal terminals, failing municipal sewer and stormwater systems, and been a constant deterrent to polluters on the water.

Now, it's painful not to be out on the water! Because of the COVID-19 crisis, our skippers are holding back on patrols, and we had to cancel several special events including a Bay tour on the historic USS Potomac, a kayak flotilla, and a Bay paddleboard trash clean-up. 

The next best thing, in this time of sheltering in place, might be to come together virtually and celebrate. We can stay connected to each other and be inspired by the Bay we love.

In that spirit, Baykeeper is posting beautiful photos of everything we love about San Francisco Bay, and Baykeeper staff and supporters are sharing favorite Bay stories, on Twitter and Instagram.

We invite you to share your photos and stories as well. Please join us in honoring San Francisco Bay. It’s the unique natural feature that connects all of us as residents of the Bay Area—and in the spirit of Earth Day, we're all in this together.

Here’s what you can do:

Pick a favorite old photo of the Bay. Write a brief caption that describes how you feel about the Bay: what do love about the Bay, or what is a favorite memory?  

Post the photo with caption on Twitter or Instagram, with the hashtags: #beautifulSFbay and #imabaykeeper and tag @sfbaykeeper. Baykeeper will like and repost your photos, and select some to feature in our emails and on our website.

Below is a photo of one of my favorite memories, of a Baykeeper staff outing on the Bay! 

Baykeeper staff

Image credit: Ben Botkin