Battle for the Century: A fight for sacred land
on November 12, 2020
In the early morning of Sept. 9, 2020, David Helvarg was leaving his house to write about the North Complex wildfires for National Geographic when the effects of climate change greeted him on his stoop.
“Looking up and seeing a jack-o’-lantern orange sky over the Bay Area because of climate change, it felt like I was in Blade Runner or Apocalypse Now,” said the 69-year-old author of eight books on the environment and justice.
The degradation of the environment is the greatest threat we face today,” says Helvarg, who lives in the Richmond Marina. “Depending on the election results … If we begin the transition from celebrity fascism to social democracy the issue that needs to be addressed immediately is climate change.”
Helvarg, alongside his organization, The Blue Frontier Foundation, is now fighting to protect Point Molate from impending development. In one of his books, The War against the Greens, Helvarg takes an in-depth look at how opposition to environmental movements from anti-conservation groups has contributed to the sale of public lands to private corporations. But Helvarg’s activism started long before.
Helvarg’s fight for justice and care for the environment have a lot to do with his parents. They were Holocaust refugees who instilled in him a compassion for life and fight for justice after taking him to his first protest at age 13. That radicalizing moment sent him on an unwavering mission to end the exploitation of land and sea.
In 1999, he started The Blue Frontier Foundation to work with communities to create solution-oriented citizen engagement needed to address environmental issues.
In 2010, the foundation partnered with Richmond residents to create the Point Molate Alliance. That year, the alliance fought the construction of a casino on a 422-acre natural headland – and won.
In its latest battle, the Point Molate Alliance is now fighting to save Point Molate from a luxury housing development. The alliance would like the land turned into a beach park and regional park.
Helvarg says there are several reasons why Point Molate’s pristine landscape should not be sullied by another luxury housing development, but the clearest example is this current fire season.
“To think that we’d tear down the last natural unprotected headland on the bay in order to put up more luxury housing in a high fire risk hazard zone is insane,” he said.
The fight to keep Point Molate a natural landscape is just one way that Helvarg is doing his part to save the environment.
Pam Sello, a resident of Richmond and member of Point Molate Alliance has worked with Helvarg for years. She describes him as a “high-energy, an environmentalist committed to the public” and commends him for his fight to keep Point Molate out of the hands of developers.
“It’s rare that a community has an asset like that in 2020 to decide what they want to do with it,” Sello said. She envisions the land being used to benefit all residents of Richmond by creating an outdoor education center, soccer field and possibly a commercial district for non-profits.
“It would be a terrible loss to Richmond residents to build a luxury housing development only created for a few,” Sello said.
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