Sunday, March 27, 2011

"Vertigo" (1937) by Lynd Ward

"Vertigo" (1937) is a complex Depression-era story of youth and beauty descending into chaos and despair. Difficult for sure (with alarming parallels to current events), though the story is enlivened by admirable moments of intimacy and struggle throughout. I think what makes Lynd Ward unique is his wide-eyed awe of life, no matter how brutal, and of course his incredible draftsmanship. I'm unaware of anyone before or since who so dynamically rendered rain, snow, or existential angst..(to do these images justice, click to enlarge)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sierra Club fights to destroy local, sustainable farming?

Pt. Reyes National Seashore is a glorious peninsula about twice the geographic area of San Francisco, its drastically-more urban neighbor to the South. Through an unusual series of citizen and legislative efforts in the 1960s, the entire peninsula has been shielded from suburban development, and visiting Pt. Reyes today thus feels like an escape into a late-nineteenth century rural community surrounded by ocean and wild nature. Pt Reyes is somewhat unique among NPS lands in that it was created in 1962 with a Pastoral Zone to maintain a handful of small beef, dairy and oyster farms operating within its boundaries.

I recently came by a copy of "Land Use Survey and Economic Feasibility Report for Point Reyes National Seashore," published by the U.S. National Park Service in 1961. This 30-page report contains several large, hand-drawn pull-out maps, including this one meant to show how much the growing population of the Bay Area needed a place to escape and unwind:

I love how the humans look so much like swarming ants. I also appreciate the nice woodcuts on the title page and that of the accompanying Economic Feasibility report:

The value of the farms to the Seashore is stated throughout. The oyster farm and cannery "would add recreation and economic value to the seashore" (p.1, Land Use Survey), and further, "The culture of oysters is an interesting and unique industry which presents exceptional educational opportunities for introducing the public, especially students, to the field of marine biology." (p.2, Economic Feasibility report) Then on p. 6 of the Economic Feasibility report: "Both the oyster production and the commercial fishery operations, in the thinking of the National Park Service planners, should continue under national seashore status because of their public values."

This is all amazing to read because since then, the NPS has demonstrated their repeated hostility towards these small farms, ranging from the enactment of 1970 Public Law 91-223 which allowed condemnation of ranchers' land (thus forcing them to sell to the government and have their land leased back to them), to most recently, employing shady tactics to force out the lone remaining oyster farm, Drake's Bay Oyster Company run by Kevin Lunny (active in Marin Organic). These tactics have included falsification of scientific data intended to make it look as if seals were being harmed, and sabotaging a Safe Salmon certification of Lunny's ranch at Point Reyes.

Incredibly, even though the Sierra Club benefitted from the small farmers' cautious support during their drive to establish the Park in the 1960s, they are now part of an environmental coalition that is also trying to force out Drake's Bay Oyster Co. The Sierra Club's portrayal of this conflict as a fight against "Profit" has resulted in a massive out-of-state letter writing campaign against the farm. Claims that they are fighting new commercialization of our public lands seem to be a deliberate distortion of the facts, given the intent demonstrated by the original planners, the original Pastoral Zone, and several centuries of small-scale agriculture at Point Reyes.

What? Politics? in this space? Yes, but I think this is important. While I have appreciated Sierra Club's efforts in the past (including helping to recognize and prevent impending development at Point Reyes 50 years ago), I think they are plain wrong here, and possibly deliberately deceiving.

It is my humble belief that the resurgence of small, sustainable farms and locally-consumed goods represents one of the only ways we can salvage any sort of quality of life in the otherwise mega-corporate 21st century. The efforts of the NPS and the Sierra Club to willfully destroy a rare coexistence of natural beauty and sustainable farms here at Point Reyes seems crazy.

OK. More rocknroll and existentialist woodcuts in the near future.