I am a nudist by nature and an exhibitionist by inclination, so when streaking became a thing on college campuses, I was on the front lines. It was 1974, my second quarter at UC Berkeley. An 18-year-old free of parental oversight, I plunged headlong into whatever I felt like plunging into. By day I studied Marxist philosophy en route to a degree in political science, but the night belonged to cheap booze, Afghan hash, and windowpane LSD.
They were all in their 50s now, hair graying or even white, sitting in a courtroom in Sacramento, waiting to be sentenced for a crime they had committed nearly 30 years earlier. Near the judge’s bench stood a large color photograph of Myrna Opsahl, whose life had ended at age 42 on the morning of April 21, 1975. She had been killed by a shotgun blast during a robbery of Crocker National Bank in Carmichael.
The 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement this year is also the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. In the turbulent river of radicalism that reached flood stage in mid-’60s Berkeley, radical environmentalism was just one branch. That is the tributary I want to navigate here. But it is good to sit down at the typewriter—excuse me, the computer—and try to remember that frenzied era in a disciplined way. Ah, the piquancy of the air back then! The smell of tear gas on campus! There were so many flavors of radicalism available that one was forced to focus.