As part of the ongoing campus initiative Global Urban Humanities: Engaging the Humanities and Environmental Design, the Arts Research Center co-sponsored the Reimagining the Urban: Bay Area Connections Across the Arts and Public Space on September 30, 2013. Participants have been asked to submit a blog post "on a keyword you see debated in the Bay Area arts, policy, and planning landscape." This posting is by Christina Gossmann, a second year in the Master of City Planning program at UC Berkeley.
Keyword: Public Nature?
The last session of the day, What is the “Bay” in the Bay Area? Creating Nature, acknowledged the elephant in the room—the Bay—but it also revealed the ambiguity of ownership surrounding this, “our” Bay. From Brad McCrea’s mention of changing legal rights (“Most things you can do on land, you can’t do in the Bay.”) to Louise Pubols’ historical account of the Emeryville shoreline as a “junky throw-away space” where artists/students/people were not afraid of “messing up,” we caught a glimpse of an immensely complex puzzle: public nature.
Curiously, and somewhat confusingly, national forests remain open. On one hand, public forests have more access points than parks and are therefore, simply logistically, harder to control. On the other hand, “those lands are open to a wide range of public activities,” explains Jarvis.
This reasoning is dissatisfying to me on multiple levels, and this is where I will bring us back to “our” Bay. As Susan Schwarzenberg, Brad McCrea and Louise Pubols have engagingly articulated, the Bay is very much contested (just remember the “outlaws,” imperial powers and polluting corporations all claiming a piece of the Bay). Moreover, I would argue that, unlike National Park Service Director Jarvis claims, the extent to which land can be used does not determine, or even slightly influence, its access. Again, I’d like to point us to a timely example.
|The Albany Bulb. Source: http://www.berkeleyside.com/2013/09/05/whats-that-san-francisco-bay-as-seen-from-the-air/|
My provocation is this: Maybe the question Linda Rugg raised around the extent to which we define ourselves as people living by the Bay and our impact on nature as well as nature’s (creative) impact on us, could be altered to become a self-examining one: Who is the “we” interacting with nature, and does every Bay Area resident have the access or right to this interaction?
Christina Gossmann loves the challenge and thus impatiently awaits your email: firstname.lastname@example.org