Recently, walking at dusk, residents of a suburban neighborhood near the Ronald Reagan Freeway on the northern edges of the Los Angeles Basin spotted a bear. What? At the edge of highly urbanized Los Angeles county?
This is what the landscape looks like on a map. Likely, the bear had been born and raised in the Marr Ranch Open Space. That’s all the green to the north and east of the red teardrop. I live south of the teardrop, in the Santa Monica Mountains near Topanga State Park. The mountains where I walk have cougars, bobcats and lots of other wild creatures. I wake every morning to the sounds of a red-shouldered hawk circling overhead. The blue at the south end of the map is all open ocean. I swim there almost every day.
I consider myself very lucky to be nested within so much Google Maps Green. I dream of the day when the green blocks might swallow up more urban sprawl. The world is growing hotter. Maybe a collective commitment to increasing Google Maps Green could help cool it down.
Bears once ranged all over the state’s varied ecosystem. There is a bear on the state flag. The animal’s slow, steady comeback is a sign that California has preserved enough fragments of intact ecosystems to create viable habitat. Fragments, it’s true. But we have to start somewhere. And that makes the bear’s comeback all the more miraculous.