earth, journalism

Line in the Sand

Over the last 140 years, give or take, San Francisco’s Ocean Beach has been a sort of boxing ring, pitting the optimism (or hubris) of humankind against the relentless power of the ocean.

We’ve moved sand around, we’ve imported beachgrass and iceplant, laid concrete, set down boulders, dumped actual, used tombstones from a cemetery evicted to make way for development in good San Francisco fashion on the beach—all this to defend against the water as it pounded our western shore.

And, like so many other natural phenomena that kick our butts and blow up best laid plans and remind civilization that we aren’t the only forces to reckon with on this planet, climate change makes it worse. As sea levels rise, so does the pressure on those coasts, which are naturally worn away by the seas and naturally replenished by rivers and streams that deposit bits of sand and rock. Except when we disrupt that dynamic by laying down houses and asphalt and all this built environment on the natural one.

These days the latest move on the part of planners is to strike a sort of compromise with nature at Ocean Beach. You can read more in my article for California Magazine.

[Image above of men laying concrete at the Great Highway, which runs alongside Ocean Beach. June 19, 1919. From the always great OpenSFHistory (OpenSFHistory / wnp36.02175.jpg).]

San Francisco

Back to San Francisco

ocean beach

In San Francisco this week, and back for a while, I think. I spent a chunk of November traveling: the Upper Valley in New Hampshire, Boston, and New York City. In the process, I accumulated a good amount of material, some of which will appear here.

It’s easy to get frustrated with San Francisco, particularly its tendency to be costly (in many respects). But the food is good, the air is clean, and the weather—today it was nearly 70 degrees, and we caught a nice sunset at Ocean Beach, a few minutes before five o’clock. Here, sometimes, there is a kind of quality of living that shouldn’t be overlooked.