The People’s Climate March: From Sea to Rising Sea Level. NorCal rally photo diary

September 23, 2014

by Sven Eberlein

reblogged from the Daily Kos

Impressions from Northern California People’s Climate Rally

Lake Merritt Amphitheater, Oakland, CA, September 21, 2014Peoples-Climate-Rally-Oakland_20

Yes, there was the big climate march in New York, the one that everyone has been talking about, except the mainstream media.

It was a fantastic success, with 400,000 people flocking to a place that is both the pulsing heart of the world’s most wasteful nation as well as the nerve center of the world’s governing body, to shout it from the rooftops that a critical mass of earthlings are tired of seeing their home planet trashed right in front of their eyes.

But a good movement is like a human body or any other living organism: it can’t function with just a heart or a brain. If it is going to survive and thrive, there need to be a lot of other functioning organs or parts that can provide the kind of immunity and resilience required to make it long-term through a diverse and complex ecosystem.

Peoples-Climate-Rally-Oakland_36

So to me, going to a rally 3000 miles west of the main march was like putting my finger on the movement’s wrist and checking its pulse. Should there be signs of vitality in such remote regions of this body, I knew that this uprising was meant for the long run.

I knew right away that this would be a good day when — walking in along the lake’s shore with my sweetie and an old friend — my buddy Bill from 350 Bay Area came paddling up beside us, giving us his personal assessment of the rally’s health.

Peoples-Climate-Rally-Oakland_22

Meandering along the lake, we encountered beautiful hand-made banners and their designers. Getting these kinds of creative, sensitive, and intelligent statements was a clear sign that this organism was getting plenty of good oxygen.

Peoples-Climate-Rally-Oakland_39

As we walked towards the stage, we were greeted by all kinds of diverse groups of happy people. You always know that your rally’s blood pressure is in great shape when you see lots of smiling Buddhists.

Peoples-Climate-Rally-Oakland_07

Moving deeper into the crowd though, we spotted a disturbance.

Peoples-Climate-Rally-Oakland_33

Every functioning organism needs germs to help build up its immune system. Before we knew what was happening, our collective organism had built up the perfect antibodies to deal with this virus, in the form of these two gentlemen from National Nurses United who attached themselves to the denier bug for the duration of the rally.

Peoples-Climate-Rally-Oakland_35

We worked our way to the side of the stage, where Andrés Soto of Communities for a Better Environment was MC’ing the event. If Andrés, who has been one of the leading voices in the fight for climate justice and against the greedy polluters of Chevron, had decided to stay in California for the occasion, it meant that this was going to be a living breathing support system.

Peoples-Climate-Rally-Oakland_15

Not just living and breathing, but also pedaling, as the power for the stage was provided by the lungs of this organism, Rock the Bike.

Peoples-Climate-Rally-Oakland_17

As soon as a bike became available, my buddy Johnny got to pedaling, unsolicited, to keep the peoples’ mics from going silent. A functioning support system run by an interdependent web of participating denizens.

Peoples-Climate-Rally-Oakland_19

Bonus vision points of front row creativity for pedalers!

Peoples-Climate-Rally-Oakland_12

We walked around the back to get a view of the whole organism.

Peoples-Climate-Rally-Oakland_08

Great to see so many fresh cells.

Peoples-Climate-Rally-Oakland_27

It wouldn’t be human if there weren’t some bad habits. Then again, the revolution will definitely not be televised this time around.

Peoples-Climate-Rally-Oakland_25

It was a truly self-aware organism, calling playful attention to how unwholesome the entire foundation upon which modern life has been built really is.

Peoples-Climate-Rally-Oakland_28

It was an organism keeping its arteries unclogged and healthy…

Peoples-Climate-Rally-Oakland_31

and its creative veins stimulated…

Peoples-Climate-Rally-Oakland_37

In short, it was a well balanced weaving together of strands and connecting of dots. Small and local enough to be resilient and supportive of the whole, but large enough to make an impact and stand on its own.

And that’s important, because in the end, each other and our connection to this planetary organism we inhabit is all we’ve got.

Peoples-Climate-Rally-Oakland_32


A big step forward for Oakland

April 4, 2013

Growing up near downtown Oakland, Lake Merritt was never a destination for me. My family went to Fairyland once and a while, and I have hazy memories of paddle boating. I remember a lot of bird droppings and the fruity stench of stagnant, brackish water. I heard that they pulled a dead body out of there once.

Lake Merritt, surrounded by its string of pearl lights at night, is now one of my favorite destinations in the Bay Area, and I’m lucky to live right above it near the Grand Lake Theater. Oakland City Officials and residents recognized the wisdom in restoring this civic gem when they proposed measure DD, a $198.25 million bond measure that included waterfront improvements at Lake Merritt and the Estuary. In November 2002, over 80% of Oakland voters passed Measure DD and work began, slowly and haltingly, two years later.

The Lake Merritt Master Plan is an inspiringly ambitious civic vision that allocates money towards landscaping, habitat and stream restoration, improving water quality in Lake Merritt, widening pedestrian and cycling paths and building better roadways to calm traffic around the lake. Measure DD Program Manager Joel Peter calls it “the most wide-ranging and complex series of projects ever undertaken by the City of Oakland.” It’s been a long project. Over ten years later, work is still being done (and is overdue) on the Estuary connection and new 12th Street bypass. But so far it is an incredible success. Visit the lake any time of day and you’ll see a cross section of Oakland jogging, playing, walking, picnicking, and relaxing in the sun.

We take so much time to complain about what is wrong with our cities–it’s equally important to celebrate and give thanks when things are done right. These successes often fly under the radar, especially in cities with as many problems as Oakland.

Here are five reasons to be excited about the Lake Merritt Master plan:

1. Restored walking and jogging paths

The walk around Lake Merritt used to be plagued with potholes. Many parts of it have been repaved and girdled with native and drought-tolerant landscaping. Some completely new sections of the path include a packed-earth lane for joggers.

2. Bike paths

The entire lake can now be circumnavigated on bike paths. The East Bay Bicycle Coalition along with TransForm are also working on connecting other existing bike paths to the lake to serve as a bike transit hub.

4. Reduced car traffic

The four lane road around the lake has been reduced to two and complimented with generously landscaped medians. The South end of the lake used to be a 12 lane street. That’s right: practically a highway. Planners cut those lanes by half and put them on an elevated bridge, accompanied by bike lanes and an adjunct foot bridge. A small park now stands between the road and the lake.

5. Reconnecting the Estuary

Lake Merritt was originally part of a tidal flat that was cut off from the estuary to create a more aesthetically pleasing lake. The destruction of the 12 lane road at the South end has connected the lake with the neck of the Lake Merritt Channel, and in the next two years a few more culverts will be removed to finally reunite it with the Estuary. This will allow the natural tidal system to operate freely in the lake for the first time in over 140 years.

Mayor Jean Quan celebrates the opening of the Lake Merritt Channel.

“Lake” Merritt and Alameda “Island” area circa 1800.

3. Wetland restoration

Lake Merritt became America’s first wildlife sanctuary in 1870, which unfortunately coincided with the slow destruction of the wetlands that supported the wildlife. The estuary reconnection mentioned above includes plans for a park and wetland restoration. Additional landscaping around the lake is recreating marshy areas and serving as natural management systems for storm water runoff, called bioswales.

Bioswale (in the background) and living roof.

The Lake Merritt Master Plan is reuniting Oaklanders with nature and the ancient Bay environment, hopefully to the great benefit of both. Go check it out for yourself!

Read more:

Polishing Oakland’s Crown Jewel, KQED.com

Oakland Lake Merritt Master Plan

Gateway to the Bay reopened, SFgate.com