Description

The Country in the City

The Greening of the San Francisco Bay Area

Richard A. Walker and William Cronon
Richard A. Walker and William Cronon

  • Published: 2009
  • Subject Listing: Environmental Studies, Western History
  • Bibliographic information: 424 pp., 36 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Series: Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books
  • Contents

Winner of the Western History Association's 2009 Hal K. Rothman Award

Finalist in the Western Writers of America Spur Award for the Western Nonfiction Contemporary category (2008).

The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the world's most beautiful cities. Despite a population of 7 million people, it is more greensward than asphalt jungle, more open space than hardscape. A vast quilt of countryside is tucked into the folds of the metropolis, stitched from fields, farms and woodlands, mines, creeks, and wetlands. In The Country in the City, Richard Walker tells the story of how the jigsaw geography of this greenbelt has been set into place.

The Bay Area's civic landscape has been fought over acre by acre, an arduous process requiring popular mobilization, political will, and hard work. Its most cherished environments - Mount Tamalpais, Napa Valley, San Francisco Bay, Point Reyes, Mount Diablo, the Pacific coast - have engendered some of the fiercest environmental battles in the country and have made the region a leader in green ideas and organizations.

This book tells how the Bay Area got its green grove: from the stirrings of conservation in the time of John Muir to origins of the recreational parks and coastal preserves in the early twentieth century, from the fight to stop bay fill and control suburban growth after the Second World War to securing conservation easements and stopping toxic pollution in our times. Here, modern environmentalism first became a mass political movement in the 1960s, with the sudden blooming of the Sierra Club and Save the Bay, and it remains a global center of environmentalism to this day.

Green values have been a pillar of Bay Area life and politics for more than a century. It is an environmentalism grounded in local places and personal concerns, close to the heart of the city. Yet this vision of what a city should be has always been informed by liberal, even utopian, ideas of nature, planning, government, and democracy. In the end, green is one of the primary colors in the flag of the Left Coast, where green enthusiasms, like open space, are built into the fabric of urban life.

Written in a lively and accessible style, The Country in the City will be of interest to general readers and environmental activists. At the same time, it speaks to fundamental debates in environmental history, urban planning, and geography.
Richard A. Walker is professor of geography and chair of the California Studies Center at the University of California, Berkeley. His publications include The New Social Economy: Reworking the Division of Labor and The Conquest of Bread: 150 Years of California Agribusiness.

"Walker has done a fantastic job of making both historical and contemporary urban environmental relationships engaging. The style is eloquent, pithy, and sometimes poetic. The Country in the City is an important contribution to urban environmental geography."
-Lisa Benton-Short, author of The Presidio, from Army Post to National Park

"Walker has done in this book what essentially has never before been attempted by any other scholar for any other major American city: he has researched, analyzed, and narrated the evolving environmental politics of San Francisco from their origins in the nineteenth century to their explosive growth in the decades following the Second World War, right down to the present . . . A first-rate piece of scholarship."
-William Cronon, from the Foreword

"Richard Walker has written a sparkling history of the greening of the Bay Area that does much more than tell a fascinating untold story. In the tradition of Raymond Williams, The Country in the City throws the whole relationship between city and country into a fresh light, one that is not only bracing but which illuminates a path forward for green politics everywhere."
-Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and The Botany of Desire

"In dark times for those who care about the fate of the earth, here's some much needed sunlight from California: an inspiring and comprehensive account of green organizing in the Bay Area from John Muir to Carl Anthony and Urban Habitat."
-Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums and In Praise of Barbarians

"Richard Walker's The Country in the City describes how fifty years of suburban developers, greenbelt alliances, grape-growers, dairy farmers, software startups, inner-city anti-toxics coalitions and others have shaped the San Francisco Bay Area as a patchwork of developed, reshaped, and protected space. This remarkable new classic also challenges not only conventional versions of the relationship between city and country, but the very definition of these two kinds of places."
-Rebecca Solnitnative San Franciscan and, author of A Field Guide to Getting Lost

"This story has never been fully told, and Richard Walker, who lived many of the battles while teaching the next generation of warriors at UC Berkeley, has finally pulled the story together. There aren't many academic works from which a local activist can profitably learn-this is one of them."
-Carl Pope, Executive Director, Sierra Club

Contents
Foreword: Thinking Globally, Acting Locally / William Cronon
Preface
Abbreviations

Introduction: Saving Graces

1. Out of the Woods: Stirrings of Conservation

2. Fields of Gold: Resources at Close Quarters

3. Moving Outdoors: Parks for the People

4. The Upper West Side: Suburbia and Conservation

5. The Green and the Blue: Saving the Bay and the Coast

6. Encounters with the Arch-Modern: Regional Planning and Growth Control

7. Fasten Your Greenbelt: Triumph and Trust Funds

8. Sour Grapes: The Fight for the Wine Country

9. Toxic Landscapes: Beyond Open Space

10. Green Justice: Reclaiming the Inner City

Conclusion: City and Country Reconciled?

Appendix
Notes
Bibliography
Index
Reviews

"Three cheers for Richard Walker's The Country in the City, as one of the first efforts to bring together a community-scale history of environmental activism and politics . . . . There is a wealth of information here, particularly pinpointing some of the specific individuals who spearheaded various activist campaigns to improve the area's environment."
-Journal of Regional Science

"The Country in the City clearly and concisely relates the story of a major environmental success. That this was achieved through the diligent efforts of a concerned population should give hope to other such populations nationwide."
-California History

"Walker presents a highly readable case study of the San Francisco Bay Area. . . . An excellent book for all libraries, especially those with regional and environmentalist holdings. Highly recommended."
-Choice

"The Country in the City is a masterful and much-needed chronicle of the Bay Area's diverse ecopolitical scene. It is a fruitful serendipity that such a rich and wonderful place has a scholar who, with intelligence and affection, can gracefully capture its green evolution."
-Orion

"Walker makes our landscape come alive as the arena of an ongoing struggle to figure out how to live lightly and well in this remarkable corner of the planet."
-Bay Nature

"Meticulously and succinctly, Walker recounts the early vision and the prolonged determination that resulted in our precious - and all-too-rare - situation. He guides the reader through the first stirrings of environmental consciousness, which soon were followed by struggles to set aside preserves, then forestall depredations, and finally establish benign public policies to guide development and land management. After reading this book, even those who already possess a green tinge in their thinking will understand the promise and peril of modern times as never before."
-San Francisco Chronicle Outdoors

"Readers of The Country in the City will enjoy immersing themselves in the Bay Area's story. Readers will see that just as nature made this place, so did people- and it's up to people to keep doing so."
-Greenbelt Alliance

"In The Country in the City, a history of local conservation and environmental activism, Walker delivers a deeply loving paean to this place where he grew up and has lived and worked and been a political activist all of his life."
-San Francisco Chronicle Book Review