When Filling the San Francisco Bay Was Legal, 1969

Filling the San Francisco Bay 1969

Trucks filling the bay, 1969

Trucks filling the bay, 1969. Photo by Harvey Richards

In 1970, the Save the Bay movement arose to stop the filling of the bay at a time when filling the bay was legal. To contribute to this movement, Harvey Richards made the film Warning Warning which documented the environmental threats to the San Francisco Bay. The photos in this “When Filling the Bay Was Legal, 1969” gallery were taken as part of his efforts to expose the corporate and municipal interests behind the systematic filling of the bay.

When Harvey made Warning Warning, corporate, real estate and government sponsored filling and polluting of the San Francisco Bay was accelerating, threatening to reduce the bay to a river outlet to the sea. The Save the Bay movement was fighting for protective legislation to hold back and reverse this trend. Harvey’s photographic efforts were designed to help conservationists by documenting who was filling and polluting the bay and what impact it was having.

Harvey Richards’ first encounters with the San Francisco Bay occurred in the 1930’s when, as an able-bodied seaman, he steered merchant ships into the bay at a time before the Golden Gate Bridge was built. A native of Oregon, he went to sea in 1930 at age 18 leaving on his first voyage from Portland, Oregon. In the 1950’s he picked up a camera and began making films to support causes that the anti-communist mainstream press refused to cover. He remained a radical foe of corporations and capitalism all his life.

Harvey’s films on the environment include three other films on logging that exposed the destructive nature of clear cutting and the wasteful practices of corporate logging up and down the west coast. He also made two films on mining in Butte, Montana. Together with Warning Warning, his environmental films give expression to conservationist ideas that were uncommon, but on the rise in the 1970’s, and are still gaining momentum today.

 


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