Topics for the year ahead
I spent the day today checking “camera traps” for a mountain lion study that sends me to remote trails north of San Francisco once or twice a month. A day out in nature gave me time to think about this blog and what I hope to cover this year.
I started this blog in 2007 as a way to organize my thoughts and learn about promising solutions relating to topics that interest and concern me – social innovation, social justice, public lands and the environment.
In 2011 and 2012 I published more articles than ever before thanks to the adrenaline that comes with the fear of losing something. In this case it was our state parks here in California.
I was outraged that the state would go so far as to threaten to close lands preserved and protected for the public good. At stake were the places where people of all economic levels can fulfill a sense of wonder, marvel at scenic landscapes, explore nature, camp under the stars or simply enjoy a picnic lunch in open spaces. Short-term solutions have placed a band-aid on the park system, thanks to the efforts of park advocates, philanthropists and dedicated volunteers. But we still have a long way to go to ensure sustainability for future generations.
Before the parks crisis, another topic that concerns the public good was on my mind: the future of journalism. In a time of shrinking newsrooms, nonprofits have been forming across the country to address the gaps in coverage left by the losses of high quality journalism, namely in depth coverage of civic and local news.
At the time I was consulting and writing grant proposals for a startup nonprofit news organization called The Bay Citizen, which launched as the “Bay Area News Project” in 2010 with seed funding from the late San Francisco philanthropist Warren Hellman. The Bay Citizen no longer exists by name but has been folded into the operations of the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting (“CIR”) in Berkeley. One year after CIR merged with The Bay Citizen, in spring 2013 CIR united several projects to publish their investigative stories that cover the San Francisco Bay Area, California and the whole nation under one brand.
Because I work in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors my thoughts about the public good and the roles of philanthropy in society will continue to be a common theme.
Here are a few topics I am thinking about and following:
Public lands and conservation
- What will be the next chapter in the charge to reinvent the California State Park system?This year California State Parks and Yosemite National Park share a 150th anniversary. By this fall, the Parks Forward Commission is charged with adopting “a long-term plan” to reinvent the California state park system, but it will not be easy to overcome the challenges identified in this report.
- What will happen to Crissy Field in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco?This urban national park is about to undergo another big transformation and this article says that we should be paying more attention what is happening to this nationally significant park.
- How will climate change be covered this year?New York Times columnist Nicolas Kristof polled his readers for “neglected topics” and climate change was the “winner.” And, finally, big corporations might be recognizing the economic implications of climate change. For those of you concerned about how climate change will impact Bay Area ecosystems, you should connect with the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium.
- What can we do to make the conservation movement more diverse?This topic was a prominent theme at the latest gathering of the Bay Area Open Space Council earlier this month.
- How can we protect the health of wild places on the urban fringes?If you are fascinated with mountain lions like I am, you will want to follow the remarkable story about a puma living on an “urban island” in the Los Angeles basin. In the hills of Griffith Park, photographer Steve Winter monitored a camera trap to capture rare images of the area’s only known puma.
- What will happen in the aftermath of the Rim Fire?The Sierra Nevada Conservancy recently earmarked $1 million toward restoration.
Access to high quality journalism and information
- What is next for nonprofit journalism?Some representatives of the philanthropic community said they are willing to consider long-term funding of nonprofit news organizations.
- What is the future for public libraries, another public good, and independent bookstoresin a time when the popularity of digital books is soaring and reading habits are changing?
Education and economic mobility
- How will Obama’s recent call to action play out for boosting access to higher education for low income students?We should hear more about this in the State of the Union address this Tuesday.
Well-being and progress
- Can we change how we measure national success?In this recent commentary in the journal Nature, the authors argue that Gross Domestic Product is a misleading measure of success and countries should act now to embrace new metrics.
Last but not least, when will it rain again?