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In her previous blog post, Heal the Bay Outreach Coordinator Danielle Furuichi discusses her journey to the environmental justice movement, sharing key concepts and context about environmental justice issues. She also shares the role each one of us can play through transformative action. Here, she dives into a visual illustration of what equality, equity and justice can look like within the environmental movement. 

 

Systemic and structural racism, harmful stereotypes, and a lack of access to education, economic status, and health resources often leave people of color out of the conversations that impact them, specifically about land use, natural resources, and environmental policy decision-making. As the environmental movement tackles climate change, water and air quality, public health, and plastic pollution issues, we all must consider the social inequities, inequalities, and injustices that are inherently intertwined with these issues. Although these words are sometimes used interchangeably, it is important to understand their differences. I will use coastal access and the graphic below to illustrate the concepts of equality, equity, and justice.


The illustration above was inspired by an illustration in “Seo, Jeong-Wook & Chung, Hosik & Seo, Tae-Sul & Jung, Youngim & Hwang, Eun & Yun, Cheol-Heui & Kim, Hyungsun. (2017). Equality, equity, and reality of open access on scholarly information.” and was created for Heal the Bay’s use by Alex Choy and Danielle Furuichi

What is equality?  

Equality is the condition under which all individuals receive uniform treatment, resources, and opportunities (Georgia Institute of Technology). The faulty assumption that underlies equality is that everyone has identical needs and would benefit equally from an even distribution of resources.

One example of a policy that emphasizes equality is the California Coastal Act of 1976. This policy outlawed private beaches in California so that by law, everyone has equal access to CA beaches. However, despite this legal action, physical and systemic barriers like geographical distance, lack of transportation, and historic segregation of coastal areas continue to prevent equal and full access for all to California beaches.

In the first segment of the illustration above, three individuals are treated equally and given the same resources – a uniform box – to access the beach view. Although one box is enough for the first two individuals, it is not sufficient to support the third individual, who remains without access to the beach view. A “one-size-fits-all” approach ignores specific needs, structural barriers, and systemic issues that impact some communities and individuals at disproportionate levels.

What is equity? 

Equity is the proportionate distribution of and access to resources. Unlike equality, equity accounts for individuality and acknowledges the historical underrepresentation of certain communities, yet it fails to actively deconstruct the underlying systemic barriers that create and contribute to current inequities (UC Berkeley Initiative for Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity). 

Let’s return to the previous example of the California Coastal Act of 1976, which provides equal access to California’s beaches. Equal, not equitable, is the key word here because equitable access requires extra steps. We can create equitable coastal access by providing educational programs and grant funding that brings people to the beach who wouldn’t have the resources to otherwise. This solution acknowledges that beaches are not uniformly accessible to everyone, and that an additional, targeted allocation of resources is required to make coastal access more equitable.

In the second segment of the illustration, the individuals are given a different number of boxes based on their needs, resulting in beach views for all three individuals. However, this solution fails to address the reason the beach view is inaccessible in the first place – the fence. 

What is justice? 

Unlike equality and equity, justice combats historic inequality and inequity while dismantling the systemic and structural barriers that are responsible for those inequities.

What would a just approach to ensuring full and equitable access to the California coast look like? To answer this question, we have to look at the fundamental reasons why there is unequal beach access in the first place. Who has access to the coast and why? 

If we look at coastal access in Los Angeles, we find that racist policies and gentrification are the root cause of inequitable access. This legacy of racism and discrimination began with the abuse, enslavement, and displacement of Indigenous people, including the Chumash and Tongva peoples who were the first to live in the Malibu and Los Angeles Basin areas.

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the legacy of slavery pervaded as Black people were harassed and kicked off of beaches surrounding Santa Monica. Practices like redlining – the division and ranking of neighborhoods based on race and socioeconomic status – prevented people in low-income communities and communities of color from buying homes, properties, or establishing businesses along the coast. On top of that, these communities were subject to additional discriminatory and unjust rent practices. 

The impact of these racist and discriminatory policies is clear today, as the demographic of those who live on and near the coast is primarily wealthy and white. Now, gentrification continues to cause the displacement of low-income communities and communities of color that live near the coast, parks, greenspace, and the LA River – and Black people still face harassment while trying to enjoy nature.

A just solution to coastal access requires the dismantling of systemic racism, prejudice, and inequitable policies. Removing “the fence” takes time and intention. Board by board, piece by piece, link by link. The process requires education and action to make the necessary changes to break down systemic and structural barriers that form injustices. 

In the third segment of the illustration, the primary barrier and need for additional resources has been removed. Without the fence, the beach view is completely accessible for everyone. 

Why did we create this image?

We created this illustration to educate our community and to encourage everyone to think more critically about the environmental movement. When we think of the environmental movement, what comes to mind? When we protect our natural resources, who are we protecting them for? Or from? Who benefits from their protection?

It is easy to see environmental issues and their solutions through a lens shaped by our own privileges and experiences. But like many other social, political, and economic issues, environmental issues are complex. Solutions to environmental problems must take into account social, political, historical, and economic factors, and to be truly transformative they must also be equitable and just. 



Danielle Furuichi, Heal the Bay’s Outreach Coordinator, shares her personal journey in the environmental justice movement, and how each and every one of us must have a unique role in transformative action. Read part two of this blog post.

 

When I first started my journey in the environmental field, my idea of environmentalism was purely ecological. I viewed nature as a place where I would escape to, rather than something I was a part of. My definition of the environment did not include my home or my community. But I now understand how this view is incomplete; where we live, where we work, and where we recreate are all parts of our environment, and ecological and human health are equally important and inextricably linked. 

The way I view environmental issues now is much more holistic, but to get there, I had to zoom out and take a broader look at my identity and my view of the world. I realized how my privilege shaped my perspectives, and the only way to see past it was to acknowledge it. I grew up in a middle class family, in a house, with two, supportive, cisgender, heterosexual parents. We had a car and I frequently went to the beach and traveled to national parks around the state. I saw myself as separate from nature and the environment because my immediate environment was not in danger nor was my access to it threatened. Environmental injustices did not impact my family or my community. But my experience is vastly different from that of others.

I share this with the hope that you will also reflect on your view of environmental issues and the role your identity and experiences have played in shaping your perspective. Here is some of what I have learned in reshaping my own:

Our Environment

At the most basic level our environment is what surrounds us. Access to clean water, sanitation, clean air, and safe and stable housing are all essential for us to have a healthy environment. When one or more of these are impaired, both human and ecological health are endangered. All too often ecological and human health are pitted against each other: increasing green space in a community drives up the cost of living there, displaces residents, and leads to gentrification. A beautiful, clean, thriving environment does not and should not have to come at the expense of any community. 

Environmental justice encompasses the idea that human and ecological health are interconnected and that all people should be a part of the decision-making process when it concerns their environment. The 17 Principles of Environmental Justice, established at the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in 1991, is the “defining document” of what environmental justice looks like for the Earth and all of its inhabitants. It concludes, if the environmental movement excludes human health and social justice, the movement is incomplete. There is intrinsic value in protecting the environment – an environment that includes people who are healthy and cared for. I encourage you to read through the 17 Principles and use them to expand your view of the environmental movement. We also have to take a look at history to further understand the relationship between human health, social justice, and the environment.

Historical Context

As we have seen recently with COVID-19 and for decades prior, socioeconomic status and race frequently determine which communities will experience the biggest negative impacts of health and environmental crises. We have witnessed over and over again that environmental issues do not affect all communities equally. Often, it is low-income communities of color that disproportionately bear the burden of poor air quality, poor water quality, and the impacts of climate change – a burden amplified by limited access to parks, recreation, and open space. This relationship is not a coincidence; a history of racially discriminatory land acquisition, voting, and environmental policies has created a legacy of injustice in the U.S. that continues today. Previously redlined neighborhoods now have high levels of poverty, pollution burden, and a lack of access to green space.

My Role

Now that I have this new perspective, what do I do with it? And how do I incorporate what I’ve learned into my work? I am continually learning about myself, environmental justice, and my place in the environmental movement. I’ve learned recently about the value of transformative over transactional practices and where true impact lies. Transformative practices take time and produce long-lasting change, while transactional practices are merely an exchange, and their impacts are short-term and insignificant. 


Danielle giving a beach talk at a Suits on the Sand cleanup. Photo by Victor Fernandes.

I have taken a critical look at the programs I manage at Heal the Bay – Suits on the Sand, Speakers Bureau, and Club Heal the Bay – to see how I can make these truly transformative. I started by educating myself and building meaningful connections and relationships with program participants. I continue to share what I’ve learned and hold myself accountable for transformative programming and an inclusive and holistic approach to environmental issues. I held an Environmental Justice Youth Summit for local middle and high school students, created an Environmental Justice-focused Suits on the Sand, and helped create more inclusive volunteer trainings. But I am still only at the beginning of my journey. Social and environmental issues stem from institutional and systemic racism, so I must check my privilege and be actively anti-racist and intentional in weaving equity and justice into my work.

In the next blog post, I will break down the concepts of equality, equity, and justice, as I look at transformative action in the environmental movement.


Additional Resources

I have found the following timelines helpful in connecting public health, civil rights, and the environmental movement in the United States:



We recently honored 24 individuals at our annual Volunteer Party. Our Super Healers are a passionate group of Heal the Bay volunteers who went above and beyond in the past year with their dedication to the conservation of our coastal waters and watersheds. We could not continue our mission without their unique and exceptional contributions. A huge thank you to all of our volunteers!

From the “Thank You Volunteers” spelled out in donuts to the video game corner to the funky photo booth, this year’s donut-themed celebration was certainly sweet.

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In addition to a whopping 22 Super Healer Volunteer Awards, this year we also awarded 1 Jean Howell Award and 1 Bob Hertz Award. The Jean Howell Award is for a volunteer who has been recognized as a Super Healer in the past and is deserving of more praise. A Bob Hertz Award is our lifetime volunteer service award and is given to volunteers who have demonstrated unwavering commitment and extraordinary service year after year.

Thank you to Bodega Wine Bar for hosting us, and to the following organizations for their support: DK’s Donuts, Astro Doughnuts, Geffen Playhouse Theater, Manhattan Stitching Company, California Science Center, Pacific Park, Patagonia, and MaCher.

Meet last year’s Super Healers.

Become a Heal the Bay Volunteer



From e-scooters to aerial art and more, feast your eyes on some epic highlights from a busy year. Alex Choy, Heal the Bay’s Communications Manager, lists our most-engaged Instagram posts from Heal the Bay’s Instagram account in 2019. 

 

As the manager of our social media channels, I get to see incredible events, people and ideas and follow exciting journeys in the environmental movement and beyond. It’s quite an experience to be directly connected with so many members of our community and watch their stories first-hand. Here are some amazing posts that our Instagram community loved in 2019. Enjoy!

 

A glimpse of some fun aerial beach art for Kids Ocean Day! View on IG


A sneak peek of Heal the Bay’s feature on an NCIS: Los Angeles episode. View on IG


All the electric scooters our Coastal Cleanup Day dive volunteers removed from under the Santa Monica Pier. View on IG


Coastal Cleanup Day happening all across LA County! View on IG

4 Coastal Cleanup Day LA County


We love to highlight neat, innovative, and local projects, like this one where ByFusion turned plastic and recycled surfboard foam into a lifeguard tower. View on IG

ByFusion


A few of the incredible dive volunteers that took part in Coastal Cleanup Day hauling this 20-foot, 250-pound industrial ladder from the water. View on IG

Coastal Cleanup Day Divers


An inside look into Santa Monica’s Recycling Center (now closed), and opportunity to sign our Plastic Petition for Earth Month. View on IG

Santa Monica’s Recycling Center


Inspiring awe and some whimsy with this springtime “sea bunny”! View on IG

Sea Hare


Follow @healthebay on Instagram and tag us with #HealtheBay!



Meet the local artist and illustrator behind our 2019 Coastal Cleanup Day poster, and get a glimpse of the process all the way from brainstorm to sketchbook to print. We love the final product and the journey it took to get here, thanks so much Aaron!

Give us some background on yourself and this project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My name is Aaron Gonzalez and I’m a Los Angeles-based creative. The majority of my work is a stylized documentation of what’s going on around me, so my work naturally reflects L.A. It was a real honor to spend time drawing the variety of wildlife in L.A. County for this year’s Coastal Cleanup Day. My work tends to be a blend between representational and imaginative drawings, but this project leaned more on the representational side. Below is the final product.

What was your goal, inspiration, and process for creating this poster?

In addition to advertising Coastal Cleanup Day, the main goals of this poster were to highlight the local wildlife living throughout and watershed running through L.A. County. It was important to Heal the Bay and I to provide a visual aid explaining a watershed, since there is a lack of visuals on the topic. Watersheds keep L.A. County connected through waterways that flow from summit to sea. It’s extremely necessary we keep our waterways clean because it has a direct impacy on our water supply and the health of our natural environment.

We decided to break the poster up into thirds to represent the mountain, river, and ocean regions. By including these three regions, we hoped to communicate how Coastal Cleanup Day doesn’t only have cleanup sites on the coast, but throughout L.A. County. I depicted L.A. County’s watersheds with a painting made up of loops flowing through the composition and ending where the poster text begins. I’ve always been a big fan of hidden messages within images, so I included “LA” within the waterways toward the top of the poster.

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A collection of poster iterations we explored, before settling on the final version.

During the poster design process, I took a couple of trips to Heal the Bay Aquarium and spent some time with a few of the marine animals I was drawing. I also took a trip to visit my sister, who is studying wildlife biology at Humboldt State. She gave me insight on what to be mindful of when depicting animal and plant life. For example, how the wrong petal or leaf count can determine one plant species from another. Heal the Bay provided me with a hefty list of animal and plant species to include, along with their scientific names, so it made my job easier and the drawings more accurate. It was also super helpful to have in-house aquarists at Heal the Bay Aquarium and scientists at Heal the bay to double check the accuracy of each species.

What were some of your favorite parts of the process and things to illustrate?

My favorite animal to illustrate was the egret. Not only is it iconic to L.A., but the physical features are super interesting. I like to draw wavy and wobbly lines, so drawing the egret’s elongated neck was really satisfying. I had to keep the consistency of drawing representational wildlife throughout the poster, but I kept thinking about the possibilities of drawing an egret with an extra long wobbly neck with twists and turns similar to the waterways in the background. One of the toughest animals to draw was the sea hare. For the longest time, I didn’t know what I was looking at. They look like deformed blobs with spots. It was one of those drawings where you didn’t know what you were making until it was done. I had to draw multiple sea hares, close my notebook, open it the next day with fresh eyes until I understood what they were. Now they’ve become some of my favorite drawings from the poster.

Another aspect of the project I was really excited about was the Korean lettering for the poster’s language variations. I am not familiar with Korean, so it felt like I was creating abstract shapes and developing a secret code. The challenge was to make the Korean text match the type style I was creating for the English and Spanish versions, maintain the consistency of each character’s height and width, and do my best to keep it legible. I managed to recognize a few patterns within the text by the end of it and I now look at signs in Koreatown a lot differently. I sent off what I came up with and was excited to hear it was approved by the Korean translator.

On top of the watershed, I sprinkled each wildlife species in their proper region. I keep imagining these drawings as textile adorning objects. Forming textile designs based on specific groups within a particular region would be great. For example, all of the plant life from the river and mountain regions living on a button down shirt or sundress. Or a collection of aquatic life forming a pattern on the interior of a beach bag. The possibilities are endless.

Overall, it was an amazing opportunity to design this year’s Coastal Cleanup Day poster. Heal the Bay is an incredible organization who has been amazing to work with from start to finish. Thank you for all that you do.

 


If you’re curious to see more of Aaron’s work, check out his website and Instagram.

To see more behind-the-scene sketches, see our Heal the Bay Instagram.



After 11 years at Heal the Bay, Communications Director Matthew King is hanging up his keyboard. Before he heads off for a career sabbatical, he offers a series of posts about his favorite colleagues and lessons learned.

Readers, thanks for putting up with this extended farewell. (I feel like Cher or Elton John a bit.)  As I hand the baton to my capable colleague Talia Walsh, I want to recognize that none of our Comm success over the past decade could have happened without the eloquence and competence of our colleagues here. My job is just to set up interviews, create talking points, edit blog posts and help draft Op-Eds and then get out of the way. I’ve been very fortunate to work with so many outstanding scientists and advocates over the years.

I owe a special debt to Heal the Bay’s first executive director, Mark Gold, who hired me to rethink HTB’s Comm strategy. I think we both learned a lot from each other. Now an associate vice chancellor at UCLA, Mark is one of L.A.’s pre-eminent environmental thought-leaders, as well as an inveterate Dodger fan, like me. (In photo below, he’s wearing the cap, next to one of his heroes, star pitcher Fernando Valenzeula, before a Heal the Bay cleanup. I don’t think I ever saw him more happy at work!) His gallows humor and unfailing candor are welcome relief in a field marked too often by wishful thinking and feel-good platitudes.

My job was made infinitely easier by the endeavors of two former science-and-policy directors, Sarah Sikich and Kirsten James. I lovingly dubbed the fresh-faced, blonde duo “The Bobbsey Twins” for their earnest dedication. But this powerful team formed a formidable one-two punch in my early years, scoring victories for Marine Protected Areas and bans on single-use plastics. These two Midwesterners embody Heal the Bay’s core values: integrity, loyalty and a willingness to work hard. I am so happy that our current president Shelley Luce embodies these strengths as well. We are in good hands.

Last but not least is Meredith McCarthy, our current Operations Director and longtime Mama Bear of the organization. As Programs Manager, Meredith worked on dozens of campaigns and events with me – instilling me with pride, conviction, confidence and a can-do spirit even when my spirits flagged. She’s a mensch, a Bodhisattva and the best “work wife” I guy could ever have.

It’s been incredibly rewarding to represent Heal the Bay’s good work to the media and general public. I hope my work has helped inspire people to become better stewards of the ocean and our inland waterways. I trust that by shining a light, I’ve helped reduce pollution in the Bay and swimming-related illnesses. My father served as an L.A. County lifeguard for 30 years. So in my own small way, I feel like I’ve been following in my late father’s footsteps – helping to protect the millions of people who visit our beaches each year.

And one final thought: My wife and I had a trick at home called “One Step Further” to encourage better in-home habits for our growing sons. Yes, it was a small victory to have them take their dirty dish out of their room and to the sink. But we nudged to them to take it one step further, and actually scrape the dish and put it in the dishwasher.

I have a similar wish for all those who support Heal the Bay. Try to take it one step further. If you come to a cleanup and enjoy it, think about becoming a beach captain. If you sign one of our petitions, think about speaking at a city council hearing about the matter. If you make a small (and appreciated) one-time donation, think about becoming a monthly sustaining member. You get the idea. None of our good work happens without YOU.

I’ll see you on the beach. Maybe in Montevideo …

 

 



After 11 years at Heal the Bay, Communications Director Matthew King is hanging up his keyboard. Before he heads off for a career sabbatical, he offers a series of stories about his favorite moments and lessons learned.

Communications Directors have a special role at nonprofits. We work with every department and try hard to give our colleagues the credit they deserve for their hard work. We collaborate with smart people, working across all disciplines of the organization, as well as allies in the community.

During my tenure, I’ve spent time in the field with scientists, teachers, policy advocates, creative directors, fundraisers, organizers, journalists, lawyers, and powerful elected officials. You learn a lot just watching and listening to people who know how to get things done. I’ve had many classroomsfrom tidepools to city-council chambers, from aquariums to production studios. That informal education has been one of the biggest blessings of my job here.

Roaming across greater L.A. with an environmental mindset has also led to some memorable encounters and surprising discoveries. Here are three of my favorite moments:

Swimming with a White Shark

I’ve edited dozens of blog and social media posts about the need to protect apex predators in our waters. But my close encounter with a juvenile white shark while surfing in El Porto made the issue deeply personal.  You can read more about it here.

Discovering a Human Skull at a Cleanup

I’ve become blasé about what we find at cleanups after all these years of seeing the same types of trash over and over. Ho hum, another pound of cigarette butts in the sand. (Yuck!) But one find at a Coastal Cleanup Day site stopped me dead in my tracks – divers discovering what looked like a human skull underneath the Redondo Beach Pier. Police shut down the site and went full-on “CSI.” You can read more about the surprise ending to this story here.

Finding Hope in the Back of a Nissan

Teachers are among the most underappreciated members of society. (Honoring first responders and soldiers is great, but why don’t they celebrate outstanding teachers before ball games as well?) Patty Jimenez is one such hero, who goes the extra mile to motivate her students in the underserved community of Bell Gardens. I invited Patty and a few of her students to share their compelling story about getting cigarettes banned in city parks on KTLA Morning News. They hustled out to Playa del Rey, battling morning traffic in the predawn darkness to appear on the show before returning back for the start of school. During a break in filming, I watched these inspirational kids do something that will stick with me forever. Read their story here.


As a former reporter and editor, I know how hard it is to be a journalist. Low pay and long hours are to be expected. Most media outlets find their budgets shrinking as fast as the attention spans of readers. That makes it harder to get environmental stories into print or on air. Still, some thoughtful reporters are doing good work. Here are three journalists who made my job fun.

Louis Sahagun, L.A. Times environmental reporter

Louis is an OG LA Times vet, slightly rumpled, slightly curmudgeonly,  but with a heart-of-gold. He’s been around the block a few times. He’s the type of guy you want to have a few beers with in a divey San Pedro bar. He’s had to weather a lot of turmoil with management changes at the L.A. Times, but he perseveres. He’s the master of the anecdotal lede, expert at painting nature with spare but evocative prose. I took Louis out on a boat for my first big story here, a feature piece on the tension over creating Marine Protected Areas off the SoCal coast. You can read one of his stories about Heal the Bay’s campaign against invasive crayfish here.

Huell Howser, the late KCET video-journalist

No one did what Huell did, exploring the backroads of California and visiting everyday folk. With his “aw-shucks” demeanor and courtly Southern manners, Huell could make a trip to an insurance office seem interesting. So I was elated when I convinced him to do a segment on our fight against single-use plastic bags. My then-colleague Kirsten James and I had a small bet whether I could get him to say in that cornpone drawl of his: “Noooooo, Kirsten! NINE BILL-YUN plastic bags??!!” You can read more about our day together here.

Gayle Anderson, reporter for KTLA Morning News

Gayle has mastered goofy shtick to make herself one of the most famous news personalities in L.A. But don’t let that madcap on-air persona fool you. As a former crime reporter in Miami, she’s whip smart and extremely well read. She’s dead serious about her job and is totally demanding of her sources when putting together a segment. She used to strike the fear of God in me, but then I discovered what a pussycat she really is. You can watch some of her segments here focusing on our efforts to increase diversity on the beach.

Final installment here: Recognizing some outstanding people

 



After 11 years at Heal the Bay, Communications Director Matthew King is hanging up his keyboard. Before he heads off for a career sabbatical, he’ll offer a series of posts this week about his favorite moments and lessons learned.

Being the Communications Director for Heal the Bay is one of the easiest jobs in L.A. Our little nonprofit has brand-recognition and favorability ratings that would be the envy of any Fortune 500 company. We don’t have to spam people. Angelenos want to hear from our scientists and educators. I’ve tried to keep it pretty simple. People love the beach. Heal the Bay protects the beach. Therefore, if you love the beach, you should love Heal the Bay. It’s like that theorem in Geometry – A=B, B=C, so A=C.

Dorothy Green, Heal the Bay’s inspirational founding president, also kept things simple. She was a master communicator, who rightly noted: “Educating the populace is critically important. If politicians are going to lead, they need to already have an army of people in front of them in order to lead it.”

She shrewdly engaged media and local ad agencies to help spread the word in Heal the Bay’s first fight  in 1985 — stopping the Hyperion Plant from dumping partially treated sewage into the Bay. I’ve followed that blueprint during my tenure, helping secure some important victories. I’ve come to realize that as dysfunctional as government can be, it’s the key variable in a winning formula for healing the Bay. Cleanups are great, but it’s the heavy arm of the law that’s going to result in meaningful change – be it bans on single-use plastics, stiff fines for chronic polluters or injunctions against offshore drilling. My job has simply been to help recruit and mobilize the army that Dorothy envisioned.

So without further ado, here are my three favorite campaigns that I worked on here.

Statewide Plastic Bag Ban

As we successfully fought for the statewide ban in 2016, I constantly got asked: “Don’t we have bigger things to worry about than plastic bags?” The short answer is “Yes.” But these urban tumbleweeds are a powerful symbol of our throwaway culture. Getting people to give up the “convenience” of plastic bags can act as a gateway drug, where they feel good about other new habits — be it eating less meat or taking public transit. With nearly 2 million YouTube views, our tongue-in-cheek, BBC-style nature mockumentary “The Majestic Plastic Bag” made people laugh and think. The Jeremy Irons-narrated film even made the rounds in the legislative offices in Sacramento, as well as running in official competition at Sundance Film Festival. I still get dozens of requests each year for permission to play the film in festivals and school districts around the world. Many marketers talk a big game about their campaign going viral only to see it fizzle. But it’s the greatest rush when your work actually does.

Measure O – Fighting Oil Drilling in the Bay

When I first heard about the prospect of Hermosa Beach allowing an energy company to drill underneath the ocean floor there, I thought it must be some kind of mistake. But a regulatory loophole and an odd legal settlement basically opened up a narrow window for voters to decide in 2015 if they would allow limited drilling in exchange for millions of dollars in “community benefits.” Knowing how trusted Heal the Bay is in the South Bay, some local business owners raised some funds for our organization and Surfrider Foundation to create a public awareness campaign to defeat the measure. We were outspent 10-to-1 by Big Oil but our community coalition – led adeptly by Keep Hermosa Hermosa and my former colleague Jose Bacallao – prevailed. We had a lot of fun with the creative campaign, which focused on the idea that “Big Oil is Slick. Don’t Trust It.” My former Comm colleague Nick Colin came up with a disruptive idea – the Spillage People, a singing/dancing crew of our staffers dressed in HazMat suits drenched in oil. Riffing off the Village People hit “YMCA,” these merry band of pranksters would flash-mob around town and sing an anti-drilling ditty to hoots and hollers. Simply brilliant.

Measure W – Stormwater Capture

For the general public, thinking about water infrastructure is as exciting as talking about retirement planning. But last fall, we were handed a rare chance to start replacing our outdated water thinking/infrastructure with L.A. County’s Measure W. The initiative called for property owners to tax themselves to the tune of $200 million a year to start building a lattice of stormwater parks throughout L.A. that will capture and reuse stormwater and other runoff instead of sending it uselessly to the sea.  It was a VERY heavy lift. Who wants more taxes? And who in the general public really thinks or cares that much about where their water comes from? All the polling suggested the measure was truly a 50-50 tossup. It could go either way. But this one measure marked the single biggest action to decrease pollution in the Bay in the past decade. Thankfully,  president Shelley Luce committed the funds to come up with a creative campaign to try to win hearts and minds in the last few days leading up to the election. My longtime volunteer creative partner – Kevin McCarthy, an avid surfer and recovering ad exec – came up with the idea to turn the L.A. River into a canvass in support of Measure W. Heal the Bay and LA Waterkeeper snuck a crew onto the banks before sunrise and spelled out SAVE THE RAIN, SAVE L.A. in enormous chunks of sod along its cement channels. Green graffiti on concrete banks — the medium was the message! Local news trucks broadcast our stunt live and social influencers from Julia Louis Dreyfus to Zooey Deschanel shared our video far and wide. We can’t take all the credit, but I’m sure our stunt drove support for the measure, which squeaked by with the tiniest of margins.

 

Next: Three of my favorite “small moments” at HTB

 



Heal the Bay relies on dedicated volunteers to pursue our mission. Each year, we host an awards party to recognize stellar individuals who go above and beyond in their volunteer roles. Here are our 2019 Super Healer volunteers.

Super Healers inspire others in the community, they bring amazing energy to Heal the Bay, they are involved in multiple Heal the Bay programs, and they are always eager and enthusiastic to give back. Back in February, our staff donned Rock ‘n’ Roll gear to celebrate this exceptional band of rockstars: our 2019 Super Healer Volunteers!

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Drum roll, please! This year, Heal the Bay awarded one Bob Hertz Award and thirteen Super Healer Awards. Read more about these exceptional individuals below:


Big thank you to Bodega Wine Bar for hosting us. The food was delicious, and their staff was accommodating as always. We would also like to thank our volunteer party donors for the awesome raffle prize and party contributions. Many thanks to: Patagonia, Universal Studios Hollywood, The Wiltern, Pacific Park, Trapeze School NY Los Angeles, and Ben & Jerry’s. And a big shout out to event photographer (and Super Healer!) Dan Do-Linh.

Meet last year’s Super Healers.

Become a Heal the Bay Volunteer



Vice president Sarah Sikich exits Heal the Bay this week after 13 amazing years of service to our coastline and inland waterways. She’s moving to Carpinteria with her husband and young daughter, taking on a new challenge as a Director of Development for Principal and Leadership Gifts at the University of California at Santa Barbara. She’ll stay connected to the ocean, helping strategize and fundraise for marine and environmental sciences, among other duties. Here she shares some thoughts about her accomplished career at HtB:

A friend and mentor, Paula Daniels, recently asked me what I was most proud of during my Heal the Bay tenure. Surprisingly, I found it an easy question to answer.

Three campaigns immediately came to mind:

  • Helping design and establish Marine Protected Areas in Southern California;
  • Contributing to the passage and defense of California’s single-use bag ban;
  • Producing the State of the Malibu Creek Watershed report, with recommendations based on Heal the Bay-led citizen science.

That’s not to diminish the other important work I’ve had the privilege to complete over the past 13 years. There’s just something about these three efforts that resonates with me. Personally, I’m proud of the inner tenacity I found to reach the finish line in each race – often in the face of stiff opposition. Professionally, it feels good to have helped lead initiatives that will provide environmental protection in California and beyond for decades to come.

The campaigns were all incredibly complex and protracted, and I only played a small part in making them happen. But, they each challenged me in ways that I couldn’t have imagined, and helped me learn a lot about myself and qualities necessary to succeed in the environmental arena. Here are some lessons learned:

Plastic Bag Ban:  Policymaking isn’t a sprint …

When Heal the Bay first started to work on statewide plastic pollution prevention legislation in 2007, we sponsored a flotilla of five bills collectively called “The Pacific Protection Initiative.” Each bill addressed a specific aspect of pervasive plastic pollution: pre-production plastic pellets or “nurdles,” lost fishing gear, polystyrene food containers, toxic plastic additives and plastic bags. The bills all supported actions called out in the Ocean Protection Council’s landmark 2007 resolution on marine debris. Naively, I thought the plastic bag ban had the best chance of passage because it seemed like a no-brainer. Society already had a readily available alternative to single-use carryout bags — reusable bags! Alas, only one bill passed though — AB 258, which prohibits pre-production pellet discharge at plastics facilities.

It took a full decade to go from concept to reality for California to become a plastic bag-free state, thanks to the voter passage of Proposition 67 in November 2016. No single person or entity can claim ownership of this victory – it required leadership from dozens of municipalities, environmental groups, community groups, scientists, agencies, businesses, and legislators. Some close friendships grew through this effort, with people I will carry forwards with me, including Angela Howe, Kirsten James and Meredith McCarthy. And, for me the statewide bag ban is the archetype for the wise words of my friend and mentor, Leslie Tamminen: “Policymaking is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” Even with a practical alternative, it took California 10 years to enact its plastic bag ban.

Marine Protected Areas: The value of compromise

Designing Southern California’s network of marine protected areas (MPAs) required enormous amounts of diplomacy and compromise. On one hand, environmental groups felt very strongly we had to protect our most valuable ocean habitats from fishing pressures; on the other, the angling community felt very strongly that reduced fishing access placed an unreasonable burden on its members. As one of 64 people negotiating about where these underwater parks should be located, progress could not be made without building alliances and finding common ground. It was difficult to hone the diplomacy skills required to figure out the moments to give in and when to stay firm. Finding common ground often proved elusive, given the diverse set of stakeholders – from commercial and recreational fishermen to environmental groups and municipalities.

I had seen the mediation and science-based deliberation prowess of my colleagues to the north – Karen Garrison, Kate Wing, and Kaitilin Gaffney — who had gone through a similar process establishing MPAs off California’s Central Coast. And, I worked hard to channel their knowledge and approach. Still, in the toughest of times I found myself frustrated, exhausted, and in one moment overcome by tears.

I now realize that the strenuous process made me tougher and stronger. All that hard work means that I can take my young daughter kayaking, snorkeling, and tidepooling within MPAs that I helped design for Southern California. I can show her rich areas of life that are more abundant and diverse, and now protected, because of the work so many devoted people, including her Mama, did. It is a source of pride.  I will forever be grateful for the support of colleagues who became friends during the toughest moments of MPA design and adoption – Dana Murray, Jenn Eckerle, Samantha Murray, Marce Graudins, Phyllis Grifman, Lia Protopapadakis, Calla Allison, and others.  Even when it took a circuitous route, the compromises made throughout this process allowed for California to go from less than 1% to roughly 16% of our coastal waters safeguarded by MPAs.

Malibu Creek Watershed Report: Take the high road

Heal the Bay’s niche in the water world is advocating for science-based solutions to environmental problems. Our methods vary, from making policy recommendations based on citizen science and scientific literature to partnering with university researchers to advance new studies to fill data gaps. Our recommendations often stir controversy – and downright anger. They often require behavior change and/or financial outlays that some opponents resist quite vigorously.

Heal the Bay’s effort to revitalize the Malibu Creek watershed marks one of the most involved and contentious projects on which I have ever worked. We evaluated over a decade of water quality and habitat data taken through our Stream Team citizen science program to inform a comprehensive report on the State of the Malibu Creek Watershed. The data compilation and analysis efforts required meticulous work by our entire scientific team, including Katherine Pease, Mark Gold, Shelley Luce, and Sarah Diringer. The final report included pages of recommendations, many of which have been realized. These include the restoration of Malibu Lagoon, certification of a strong Local Coastal Plan for the Santa Monica Mountains, and the current work of Las Virgenes Municipal Water District to greatly increase water recycling at its Tapia wastewater treatment facility. All these efforts will reduce pollution in the watershed and Santa Monica Bay, while protecting habitat and wildlife in one of L.A.’s most important natural areas. But as with many issues in the Malibu area, local residents dug in their heels to fight what they perceived as environmental overreach.

After we released the report and advocated for its policy recommendations, my colleagues and I experienced name-calling and bullying, and attempts to undermine our credibility from people who didn’t agree with its findings. I even had people viciously calling me out in the lineup at Malibu as I surfed the waves at First Point. At times it was tough to keep focus on the work and not feel deflated by all the personal attacks and distractions. But, the success of the report’s outcomes is a strong reminder that there is great value in taking the high road. It is incredibly rewarding see the positive results of projects with science on their side, like the Malibu Lagoon restoration that has greatly improved water quality and wildlife diversity in this important wetland habitat.

I feel great pride in the protections that I’ve helped advance for the vibrant coastal and ocean resources throughout Southern California. And, after over a decade of work at Heal the Bay, I realize that it’s not the natural resources that move me the deepest. It’s the dedicated people working so hard to protect what we love. I hold a particularly special place in my heart for the women water warriors that I’ve come to know through this work, as they are a powerful and impressive force of positive change-makers.

I had the treasured opportunity to work with Dorothy Green, Heal the Bay’s founding president, for a few years. In the brief time we shared, she taught me the importance of empowerment. She had an amazing ability to help people reflect on and find the individual value that they could bring to a cause, empowering them to take leadership in that area and be the change. She did that for me when I was fresh out of graduate school beginning work on my first project at Heal the Bay – ocean desalination.

By that time she had moved on from Heal the Bay, and I imagine that she had no idea who I was or what I could bring to the topic. But, she listened to me and made me feel valued, as if she knew I would provide meaningful contribution to the effort. I’ve carried that support with me throughout my time at Heal the Bay, and have tried to invest it back into Heal the Bay’s staff, interns, and volunteers as I’ve grown in my career. This type of empowerment made a huge difference for me, and I believe it is imperative to continue to cultivate in future leaders. We need to help smart young leaders grow and learn so they can be ready to conquer challenges yet to come.

As I wrap up my final days at Heal the Bay, it’s hard not to get lost in the check list of tasks to close out and set forth a path of transition. Of course that’s just the nature of work, but it’s also probably a bit of a coping tactic to avoid sitting with the deeper feelings of working at a place that has meant so much to me personally and professionally. Heal the Bay is such a big part of my heart and identity. Working on environmental issues about which I am deeply passionate, and around such amazingly bright and dedicated people has been a true gift that I will carry forward with me to new endeavors.