Evolving Landscapes

Environmental Studies Professor Laura Watt Publishes Book About Evolving Landscapes in Point Reyes
November 21, 2016
laura watt

Laura Watt

A new book by Sonoma State University Environmental Studies and Planning Professor Laura Watt is coming to bookshelves Nov. 29. "The Paradox of Preservation" is the story of landscape preservation of Point Reyes and what the idea of wilderness really means.

"We are told humans are the problem and are so destructive that there is no room for us in nature -- people hiking is fine, but making a living in nature is a problem," says Watt. "In reality, the landscape of Point Reyes is fine after 150 years of human activity. Human activity in landscapes doesn't necessarily have to be viewed as destructive."

The book is the culmination of nearly 20 years of work.

"The Paradox of Preservation started out as my dissertation back in Berkeley in 2001 with me doing research all the way back in 1997," says Watt. "The issue of preservation of Point Reyes has evolved over the years into a much bigger and interesting story."

The small West Marin community of Point Reyes was thrust into the national spotlight in 2012 when Drake's Bay Oyster Company was evicted from its Drakes Estero location in the Point Reyes National Seashore after the National Parks Service decided to return the land and waters of the estero to its natural state.

Besides the historical story, Watt, an avid photographer, has taken many of the photos for her new book with an instant Polaroid camera. They are printed on peel-apart film and scanned into the computer to give the pictures a rugged and lonely feel.

Watt hopes to use her new book in some aspects of her curriculum at Sonoma State University. "With my Landscape History of the American West class in the spring I'd like to bring forth the idea to students of 'What are parks for? Who are they for? And who gets to decide?'"

Watt hopes to write another book in the near future about her time growing up in the Rocky Mountains with her parents, who are both biologists, documenting the change in science and interaction with landscapes in different ways. "Hopefully it doesn't take another 20 years," says Watt with a laugh.

Watt is speaking about her new book at University Press Books in Berkeley on Dec. 8 at 5:30 p.m. "The Paradox of Preservation" is available through Watt's website.

Media Contact

Nicolas Grizzle