Potemkin Creek: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Nature


Potemkin Creek: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Nature

Hello.  This is my Master’s Thesis from the Department of Geography at San Francisco State University.  It is about a new twist on urban stream restoration, one that is showing up for the first time on Temescal Creek in North Oakland.  It concerns public and private efforts to visibilize and commodify creeks, to make them fit into the urban landscape and economy in ways that do not pose the traditional hydrologic dangers of the intersection of nature and development. I call these phenomena “Potemkin Creeks” or faux creeks.  It is derivative of the idea of a Potemkin Village.  But if you want to know what a Potemkin Creek is, the only way is to read my Thesis!

I am interested in this topic for a few reasons.  As some of you remember, I have been involved in some local urban sustainability efforts, notably the Urban Sustainability Bike Tour (2000-2004), the Berkeley Biodiesel Collective, and small- and mid-scale composting projects.  As a landscaper, I became interested in water conservation and how water can be used efficiently and wisely.  With some of these activities I was motivated by a desire to find ways that urban life can fit in better with ecology and environment.  I am also interested in urban infrastructure, especially water networks.

Geography, cultural and physical, to me is about understanding how and why things are distributed across the landscape.  In this case, I wanted to understand how this landscape feature ‘faux-creek’ got started, and where and why the idea is starting to spread through the Temescal watershed, and where it might be going beyond that.

This website is not a blog, but will get updated and improved periodically.  There is a space for comments (link on the left) and for modest personal updates (link on left at bottom).

Hope you enjoy it.

Jon Bauer

jondebauer (at) hotmail (dot) com