The Great Blue Herons of Stow Lake

Last week I was fortunate enough to spend some time with one of Golden Gate Park's  most interesting characters- Nancy DeStefanis. In a former life, Nancy worked with Cesar Chavez and campaigned for women's rights. Now she dedicates her time to the non- profit San Francisco Nature Education where she teaches not only the public, but disadvantaged communities, about nature in the big city. Nancy  DeStefanis counting the Blue Heron chicks at Stow Lake. Photo: Alessandra Bergamin.

I was there to write about the Great Blue Heron colony at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park of which Nancy was the first to discover some 20 years ago. She now runs Heron Watch- a program designed to educate visitors and school kids about the colony and more so, this majestic bird.

I am relatively new to the environmental journalism world and slowly, I am getting used to writing feature stories where the main character is a place, rather than a person. But this was an instance where the person was as much a character as the place and so I chose to interweave the life of the Blue Heron colony with that of Nancy DeStefanis. As now, when I think about it, it is hard to imagine one without the other.

You can read the story published on Bay Nature here.


I own a Nokia mobile phone.

The kind that has a shoddy 2 mega pixel camera, where the buttons make clicking noises and the only thing that happens when I touch the screen is that it looks slightly cleaner.

As you can imagine, this little Nokia not only receives much laughter and incredulity, but also transports people down memory lane to their first beloved Nokia or even, first phone.

As someone hoping to become a journalist this is, as you can imagine; problematic. I can't tweet, blog or facebook on the train, I don't have an ABC, BBC or NYT app to read on the tram and I can't entertain myself trawling through the internet and reading all sorts of useless things.

My laptop is not in any better shape. Back in 2009, it was one of the newly released ASUS net books but now, against smaller and sleeker versions, let alone tablets, it looks old and outdated. Not to mention, I am one of the only people who can press on the SD card reader at the right angle to make it work or maneuver the crazy mouse pad and buttons.

Amid this outdated technology, I have considered and researched my options. Should I; get a Mac laptop, get a smart phone, get a kindle, get an i- phone, get a tablet, get some other kind of e- reader or get an i-pad?

After much debate, I am still stuck in the early 2000's, not because of indecisiveness, but more so, environmental awareness.

According to 'The European Environment Agency' and 'UNEP,' 40-50 million tonnes of electrical equipment waste are produced each year globally. Most of this waste ends up in landfill, can can be shipped to places such as dump sites in Kenya and India. For people who depend upon scavenging in waste for resalable items, electronic waste is seemingly heaven sent as the list of elements and metals inside range from the toxic to the non- toxic and includes; arsenic,  mercury, copper and gold. To access these metals, however, the plastic coating on electronic goods needs to be removed, often through mass burning, and can lead to health issues including respiratory problems and increased cancer risk as well as ecological problems such as soil and water contamination.

While new technology is improving our lives and bringing the world 'closer' together, recycling, reusing or disposing of electronic waste, has not kept up with technological advances and we are seeing a rapid obsolescence of electrical goods worldwide. There are however, ways to minimise waste through organisations such as MobileMuster, who recycle mobile phones or through reselling goods on Ebay or Gumtree.

For now, I have decided to keep my archaic Nokia phone and decrepit laptop until they become unusable and perhaps play old school snake on my phone or better yet, just read book on the train.