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Two-wheeled Eco-flashback April 5, 2011

Posted by Bill in Photography, Reflection.
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In 1971, I found myself crouched behind a clump of grasses with my Mamiya Secor 35 mm camera to photograph marine bird life that occupied the Upper Newport Bay in Southern California. upper newport bay

A freshman in college and enrolled in an ecology course taught by master teacher Mark Parrat, I found myself outraged that the Irvine Company had plans to dredge the back bay into a marina/condo development, describing the area as a “dead mud flat.”  In these  pre-social networking days, the hard lifting in ecological conflicts was done by the devoted who would attend planning commission hearings and nag state agencies until the right thing was (occasionally) done.  My camera was pointed at the not-terribly-dead egrets, gulls, sandpipers and great blue herons feeding on the also-not-dead fish fry after hatching in the back bay, still a major fishery for the west coast.

I returned there today to revisit my eco-radicalization after finding online a bike trail serving the perimeter of the bay and UC Irvine while in the area on business (with the bike, of course).  I thought of the grannies, biologists, students, academics, and other activists who opposed the Irvine company, driving the creation of the Upper Newport Bay Preserve in 1975.

upper newport bayI also thought of, and slightly longed for, the angry young man I had been, camera in hand, in awe of the unwillingness of some to see the life I photographed, many years ago.  Slightly less angry now, I remain grateful to those who made the preservation of UNB possible despite phenomenal odds.  The rest of Orange County, CA, stands as testament to the values held by the developers who have had their way with the land, except for Upper Newport Bay, a place now celebrated, and which would only exist in memory and on film but for those heroes in the early 70s.

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