When I arrived in Point Reyes Station, I was burnt out and fed up. The stress of living in Oakland and the San Francisco Bay Area had gotten to me: skyrocketing cost of living, unaffordable housing, displacement and homelessness, and the jarring losses of civic and cultural life due to gentrification. All I could see was the triumph of market-driven capitalism over any other kind of society. And that was depressing.
Then I walked out to the Giacomini Wetlands, which form the headwaters of Tomales Bay, the 9-mile-long sliver of saltwater that separates the Point Reyes Peninsula from mainland California. This area is considered the 6th most biologically diverse region in the country, and it is breathtaking. Within ten minutes I saw bald eagles, huge flocks of sandpipers, great egrets, and a white-tailed kite. My heart began to fill with delight, wonder, gratitude…all the feelings that lead to hope.
This is not just a rhapsody on the healing power of nature, although that’s part of it. What I want to say is this: From about the 1920s until the mid 2000s, this wetlands didn’t exist. Generations of ranchers had diked and filled it, blocking it from the outflow of Lagunitas Creek and other waterways, to create more pasture land for their dairy cows. But then, local residents and community groups started advocating for wetland restoration. With the partnership of Point Reyes National Seashore, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and other organizations, the people succeeded. Within one year of removing the last levee in 2008, vast numbers of shorebirds, ducks, raptors and other species returned. Locals and biologists were astonished. The bird life quickly exceeded their hopes and projections.
The Giacomini Wetlands are a cradle of life resurrected by the will of the people. They restored something to the commons, for the benefit of all beings. This place refills hope — the quality most needed to live from a place of integrity action in a challenging time. Thanks to examples like the Giacomini Wetlands, I can envision a path away from the consumerist, capitalist paradigm and toward a path of common good.