I was dissembling a rugula with plastic fork and knife when Catherine Seward, Chief Development Officer of TreePeople graciously introduced herself. We were, all of us, wearing name tags with the organization each of us represented proudly displayed in bold print. Catherine Seward recognized my name.
“Oh, you responded on Saturday with your RSVP!”
“Yes, a day late,” I admitted.
“That’s fine, I am so glad you are here. I think you will find the panelists inspiring.”
As she turned her attention to Wendi I returned to my rugula. Suddenly half of the tightly wound pastry leapt from my plate. It was airborne, in an arc that put it on a flight path targeting the lady in a business suit sitting across from me, with a group called ‘Outdoors Indoors’ when Wendi snagged it and handed it back to me. This was a good trick because she was involved in a pretty animated discussion about the drought and the Shot Hole Borer, and a fungus called Fusarium. I ate the rugula.
Diana, sitting to my left, said, “Blame it on the plastic!”
“Do you think she recognized me as the pedantic poet?” I asked.
“Sure,” Said Diana.
“It’s not about you Steve,” Said Wendi kidding and telling the truth at the same time.
“It’s about giving back to this wonderful planet we live on,” Continued Wendi.
“Maybe you can write about this event,” Said Diana.
Then Tamika Lang, the Western Regional Senior Manager for Global Corporate Citizenship (GCC) at Boeing took to the podium. She introduced herself and today’s topic: ‘Investing in Los Angeles’ Kids: How to Grow the Green Jobs Sector.’
At Tamika’s request we stated aloud, one at a time, what our name cards said in print; who we were and who we represented. This was mostly a blur, like all multiple introductions. I remember Wells Fargo Bank and So Cal Edison. Many non-profits, corporations, and educational as well as environmental advocates were also present.
Tamika Lang had an understated, yet unquestionable sense of authority based on intelligence and a pleasant demeanor. If she asked us to re-introducing ourselves, we would have complied. Her attitude conveyed the promise of some fun, a lot of constructive information and getting it all done on time so everybody could return to their jobs.
We watched a five-minute video produced by TreePeople. It featured volunteering opportunities, sustainable solutions and school programs developed and implemented by TreePeople.
The first of our three speakers, Senator Ben Allen (D-26), Chair of the Senate Education Committee spoke pretty fast. It became apparent instantly that this politician was not just extremely intelligent but sincere with a macro and micro knowledge of the subject. He truly cared about what he was talking about.
State Senator Allen reminded me of an exotic example of some long-extinct mega fauna, like a unicorn. He was an honest politician that didn’t talk about himself. He cared about the future. Senator Allen talked about sustainability and wildland urban interface. He spoke of high impact research and best management practices. He bragged about California’s efforts to lead by example in the battle with our changing climate. Progressive policies have made the green economy a profitable reality. California’s 2.7 trillion dollar economy is bigger than that of the U.K.
Tamika introduced the next speaker, Cindy Montañez, CEO of TreePeople, who talked even faster than the Senator. Cindy, at the age of twenty-five became the youngest mayor and council member of San Fernando. Then three years later she became the youngest woman ever elected to the California State Legislature, where she earned a reputation as a champion for the environment, sustainable urban planning and social justice. We further learned from her bio sheet that Cindy is currently a board member for the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, and a Legislator in Residence at the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics.
(At this point, anybody taking a shot every time the word sustainability comes up should take a break).
Cindy Montañez, began by discussing an uncomfortable subject; the effects of excessive heat on the human body. People dying in Japan from unusually high temperature. Fantastic flames overwhelmed Greeks as they fled towards the sea. California fires are a four season phenom, with 126 days over 95° or higher in the very near future. This July did turn out to be the hottest in California history.
Green House Gasses are heating things up. Planting trees is a positive way to achieve urban cooling. Trees also sequester carbon and release oxygen.
In California there are 3.3 million clean energy jobs compared to 2.9 million in the fossil fuel industry. California has already achieved its 2020 emission goals.
Cindy spoke with concern about present conditions, and then took a positive tone as she related efforts by TreePeople and other groups to promote sustainable solutions. She talked very fast, but not as fast as the final panelist, Candice Dickens-Russell. I thought about running in place to just keep up.
Candice is the Director of Environmental Education at TreePeople. She used terms such as Environmental Engineering, Environmental Literacy and Sustainability Equity. She is the director of the Generation Earth Program and manages TreePeople’s school program. Also a member of the California Department of Education’s Environmental Literacy Blueprint Task Force, Dickens-Russell coordinates Los Angeles County teachers with environmental education resources.
Candice thanked corporate partners that have sponsored the effort to save the future…Boing, Disney, 3M, Casa Automotive, Patagonia and Westfield.
All three panelists were extremely impressive, with extra intelligence and caring hearts. They took a few questions then wrapped it up on time. Now it is up to us to spread the word and make a difference.