Entries in Local (13)


Forward on Climate Rally

Today, I participated in the largest environmental march in San Francisco history, as thousands gathered outside the State Department headquarters as part of the "Forward on Climate Change" campaign.

The march, which culimated in a rally in the plaza across from the Ferry Building Terminal, was organized by the San Francisco Bay chapter of the Sierra Club, along with, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and several other groups.

In solidarity with protests across the nation, most notably in Washington, D.C., which was the largest climate change rally in U.S. history (and others around the world), the campaign's message is to urge President Obama to reject the development of the Keystone XL pipeline, an extension of a tar-sand oil pipeline that connects Alberta, Canada and multiple Midwest cities.

I've been following the #IdleNoMore campaign as well on this issue, since the Keystone Pipleling project has numerous connections to my tribe and the overall indigenous resistance to this threat to our ways of life and self-determination.

I attended as a member of the steering committee of Bay Localize, an organization that inspires and supports Bay Area residents in building equitable, resilient communities. We confront the challenges of climate instability, rising energy costs, and recession by boosting our region's capacity to provide for everyone's needs, sustainably and equitably. We achieve this by equipping local leaders with flexible tools, models, and policies that strengthen their communities.

See pictures from the march and rally below:

Idle No More had a strong showing at the rally.

San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos speaks at the rally.

Organizers estimated 4,000 people in attendance in San Francisco and 40,000 in Washington, D.C.


Building a Ship, Building a Community

For the past year or so, I've been serving on the Board of Directors of the Educational Tall Ship Project - a special project meant inspire people to celebrate and experience the rich maritime history of the Bay Area, learn about and preserve our delicate ecosystem, and provide life-changing experiential learning opportunities for youth of all backgrounds, now and for generations to come.

The mission of the Educational Tall Ship Project is to construct a historic and sustainable wooden tall ship for the San Francisco Bay Area. The project will provide on the water and shore-based experiential education for students of all ages, both during construction and after completion. Programs will focus on marine ecology, sustainability, teamwork, leadership and the rich maritime history of the Bay Area.

Our goal is to create the most environmentally sustainable working tall ship ever built. In fact, our goal is to operate on a completely carbon neutral basis. A few of our sustainable features include:

  • Construction: All construction methods, materials, and equipment for the project will be selected with attention to their suitability for design functions, esthetics and the environmental impact of producing these materials and equipment as well as what happens at the end of the use cycle.
  • Education: Our goal is to turn the construction project into a vibrant, interactive learning experience in which youth and broader community are inspired about learning and take ownership of their own education. The educational program will combine natural and nautical curriculum elements to empower the next generation of sea stewards.
  • Operation: Day-to-day operations are designed to minimize energy and water use with a waste management system that will repurpose, recycle and reduce waste. By using LED lighting, induction cooking and low energy navigation and appliances, we will use less than 50kWh per day. Producing and storing enough energy from just four to six hours of sailing can achieve energy self-sufficiency.
  • Propulsion: The ship will produce her own energy and propulsion needs through a state-of-the-art hybrid system using wind power to produce electrical generation. By combining technologies from the 19th and 21st centuries—skipping over the petroleum era—ETS will become a unique teaching tool that can inspire appreciation for past boat building designs while utilizing innovative technology solutions to construct a truly green sailing ship.

I am thrilled to report that the board, staff, and Sausalito community have agreed upon a construction site and the project is set to begin!  Learn more about our progress from the press release below.

Educational Tall Ship Project
Sausalito, CA


December 14, 2012

Sausalito Planning Commission Approves Bay Area Non-Profit’s Plan to Construct First Wooden Tall Ship in Almost 100 Years

(Sausalito, CA) - Imagine the graceful lines of a wooden Tall Ship, an echo of San Francisco’s rich maritime heritage, tacking her way under the Golden Gate, appearing out of the fog under full sail like a 19th century ghost. On her decks and aloft are Bay Area youth of all backgrounds and abilities working and learning together, sailing her confidently, their faces bright with a sense of adventure and achievement.

Supporters of The Educational Tall Ship for San Francisco Bay (ETS), a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that is constructing the first ever sustainably built and operated “Living Ship” in North America, celebrated Wednesday evening after the Sausalito Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve their proposed construction site at Marina Plaza, 2330 Marinship Way. Members from the community, including site architect, Michel Rex, Director of Richardson Bay Maritime Association and Executive Director of Call of the Sea, Charles Hart, expressed their support for the project, but from the comments made by each member of the commission, it didn’t seem necessary. “What really impressed me was how very supportive each person was when they spoke about what the project will bring to our working waterfront”, said ETS Executive Director, Alan Olson. “Our goal has always been to make this a community project and we were all moved by the support expressed by the Planning Commission and the community members who came to speak”, Olson said.

The vessel will serve as an outdoor education platform for Bay Area youth serving an additional 10,000 students every year, expanding  existing on-the-water programs offered by “Call of the Sea” a Sausalito based non-profit.  The ship will incorporate old-world technology with a new sail  powered regenerative electric drive system. ETS will employ local, skilled craftsmen as well as apprentices and volunteers to implement the project. Expertise and supervision will be provided by the premier wooden tall ship designer/builders in the country, Tri-Coastal Marine of Richmond CA. The construction process will be open to the public, and volunteers from various backgrounds and age groups will partake in the building of this vessel to truly make it the Bay Area’s Tall Ship.

For More Information Contact:                 

Kimberly Kouri
Educational Tall Ship
60C Liberty Ship Way
Sausalito, CA 94965


Coho Mojo!

For the past 10 weeks, I’ve been learning about the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN), an award-winning, science-based watershed protection organization that engages community members to take action in order to help the salmon recover and thrive. SPAWN is a project of the Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN) and the program partner for my California Naturalist Certificate program from the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The mission of SPAWN is to protect endangered salmon in the Lagunitas Watershed and the environment on which we all depend. SPAWN uses a multi-faceted approach, including grassroots action, habitat restoration, policy development, research and monitoring, citizen training, environmental education, strategic litigation, and collaboration with other organizations, land-owners, and agencies.

SPAWN offers walks to view spawning salmon, an email action alert list-serve, homeowner consultations on creek protections, seminars, training and volunteer and internship opportunities.

As a soon-to-be-official naturalist, I have come to appreciate the focus of SPAWN’s efforts around the protection and preservation of the Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch), a native species to the Lower Columbia River (threatened), Oregon Coast (threatened), Southern Oregon and Northern California Coasts (threatened), and Central California Coast (endangered).

According to the SPAWN website, "Coho have declined more than 95% from historic population levels, and are a listed species under the US Endangered Species Act. Just 30 minutes from the SF Bay Area's urban centers, Lagunitas Creek Watershed is one of the most important waterways left for these wild coho salmon, supporting 10 to 20% of all wild Central California Coast Coho surviving today."

By focusing on the Coho, our instructors explain their path to and from the ocean in the course of their lifecycle, drawing upon the connections that this species has with all of the other species is meets on its journey. We also learn about how the geography and geology play an important part in connecting such a fragile web of life.

I’m amazed at how intelligent, careful, and fun the SPAWN staff are in working with the community and watershed. Many of them are expert researchers, while others are local residents that care for the life around them.

This past weekend, I volunteered on a habitat restoration as part of the capstone project for two of my classmates. We removed the awful Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus) that has taken over many areas near the SPAWN office in the Lagunitas Creek watershed.

Checkout this huge invasive weed pile that we pulled, on its way to become compost:

I hate weeds! - I HATE 'EM!


Prepare To Be Moved!

Don’t miss Earthquake: Life on a Dynamic Planet, a major new exhibit and planetarium show at the California Academy of Sciences. Take a kinetic journey toward understanding these super seismic phenomena and how they fit into the larger story of our ever-changing Earth.

Visitors enter through an oversized crack into a 25-foot-diameter model of the Earth to find touchable geology specimens and interactive stations explaining the basics of plate tectonics. The exhibit highlights how the same earth processes that cause destructive earthquakes in the human timescale can also provide constructive conditions for life in the geological timescale. Live ostriches, ancient fossils, plants, and mounted marsupials (mammals with pouches) illustrate the shared legacy of India, Antarctica, Australia, South America, and Africa, which were once joined together.

The exhibit features an earthquake simulator resembling an old Victorian home in San Francisco transports you back to 5:04 pm on October 17, 1989 – the date and time of the infamous Loma Prieta earthquake. A sudden sustained tremor, followed by a brief aftershock, will give visitors a sense of what this ground-jolting event felt like.

Finally, hands-on activities address what you should do before, during, and after an earthquake.

You might be asking, "What do baby ostriches have to do with earthquakes?" Well, as flightless birds found on multiple continents that were formerly connected, they demonstrate how techtonic shifts have separated them across vast oceans. Plus, they engage the public in learning more about science because they're so darn cute!

The exhibit is now open!  Brace Yourself!


Traditional Ecological Knowledge

I recently watched this video (below) from Bioneers about traditional ecological knowledge. The mission of Bioneers is to inspire a shift to live on Earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other and future generations.

The Bioneers Indigeneity Program works to promote indigenous leaders and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) as a critical path to support all people in learning to honor bio-cultural landscapes and reconnect to place-based ways.  Native peoples are keepers of the earth's "old growth" cultures, living in harmony with their Native environments for thousands of years.  This indigenous science offers a different way of knowing that provides a crucial complement to the tools of western science.

Over the last decade, Bioneers commitment to indigenous peoples' social and ecological issues has brought together some of the greatest indigenous leaders of our time in one place. 

I originally wanted to post a presentation by Melissa K. Nelson, Ph.D. (Anishinaabe/Métis [Turtle Mountain Chippewa]), a cultural ecologist, scholar-activist, writer and media-maker, is a Professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University and the President of the Cultural Conservancy, a Native American nonprofit dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of indigenous cultures and their ancestral lands. She is the editor of the Bioneers anthology, Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings For A Sustainable Future and producer of the award-winning documentary film, The Salt Song Trail. She is the co-founder/co-producer of the Indigenous Forum at Bioneers and co-founder of the new Bioneers Indigeneity Program as well as serving on Bioneers’ board.

However, they password protected the video (why do they not want to share this?!?!), so I removed the link.  Hopefully, Bioneers will be more share-friendly in the future.


Nonprofit Tech Companies

This weekend I hosted a party and one of my guests recently started working at Twitter. We had a nice conversation about social media and technology, and how in light of recent high-profile public offerings (Facebook, Groupon, LinkedIn, Pandora, Yelp, Zynga, etc.), little has been known about how these technology companies are turning a profit, like the recent 60 Minutes profile of Groupon.

I live two blocks away from the Zynga headquarters and walk past the Twitter's new building on my way to work each morning, so technology is a community interest for me, in some ways.

And for those tech companies that offer information or tools, it's fascinating to see some great examples of non-profit tech companies that serve a social mission, making the internet more of a nonprofit space, where ads and marketing aren't influencing the user experience.

I've been thinking more and more about this conversation and so I decided to explore the mission statements of my top 10 favorite nonprofit tech companies.

They are (in alphabetical order):

1. Bay Area Video Coalition (San Francisco, CA)
Mission: The Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) inspires social change by enabling the sharing of diverse stories through art, education and technology.

2. Craigslist Foundation (RIP, San Francisco, CA)
Mission: to empower people to strengthen their communities by connecting them to the resources they need to effectively engage in community building.

3. Creative Commons (Mountain View, CA)
Mission: Creative Commons develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation.

4. Electronic Frontier Foundation (San Francisco, CA)
Mission: The Corporation was formed for the purpose of understanding and fostering the opportunities of digital communication in a free and open society.

5. Internet Archive (San Francisco, CA)
Mission: to offer permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format.

6. Kahn Academy (Mountain View, CA)
Mission: to provide a free world-class education to anyone anywhere.

Note: Kahn Academy was recently featured on 60 Minutes.

7. Mozilla Foundation (Mountain View, CA)
Mission: to promote openness, innovation and opportunity on the web,

8. TechSoup Global (San Francisco, CA)
Mission: TechSoup Global is working toward a time when every nonprofit and NGO on the planet has the technology resources and knowledge they need to operation at their full potential.

9. Tehnology, Entertainment, Design (New York, NY)
Mission: Spreading ideas.

10. Wikimedia Foundation (San Francisco, CA)
Mission: to encourage the growth, development, and distribution of free, multilingual content, and to provide the full content of these wiki-based projects to the public free of charge.

Please share your favorite nonprofit tech companies with me! I can be reached at


Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

When I was in graduate school, I took a course on organization behavior and we had a conversation about "nonprofits acting like people," which led us to the funny image of "kids playing in a sandbox."  A recent project that I've been working on has been one such example of organizations collaborating, fittingly in a park setting.

On May 12, 2012, the Stanford Alumni Association is holding the annual Global Day of Service known as "Beyond the Farm" that extends Stanford's spirit of service to communities around the world through the volunteer efforts of alumni, family and friends. As an alumnus and board member of Stanford Pride, I'm putting together a project to work at the National AIDS Memorial in Golden Gate Park (full disclosure: I'm on the board of the National AIDS Memorial, too!). We're promoting the event with the Stanford Club of San Francisco in our outreach efforts, among many other service projects in San Francisco on that day.

Our volunteers will help maintain the memorial by clearing weeds and debris, mulching and hauling topsoil, planting new trees and shrubs, and other related projects.

Grab your shovel and join me!  Let's play well together in the sanbox!


I Support Sustainable Sports

Tonight, as a member of the environment circle at Full Circle Fund, I met Jill Savery, Head of Sustainability at America's Cup Event Authority. Jill is a Bay Area native, author, Olympic gold-medalist, and inductee of the International Swimming Hall of Fame. She spoke to us about the sustainability plan for the 34th America’s Cup, which will be in San Francisco next summer (2013).

(L) Melanie Nutter, Director, San Francisco Department of Environment, (R) Jill Savery, Head of Sustainability, America's Cup Event AuthorityJill explained to us how sustainability planning for an event differs from sustainability planning for the ongoing operations of a commercial enterprise, institution or community. For example, unlike a business, an event takes place in a finite and short time period, and planning can involve considering potential impacts of an event with little or no useful historical data to reference.

The America’s Cup has never been held in San Francisco or so close to shore, so organizers must predict factors such as the number of spectators that might attend, transportation requirements, and quantities of waste generated.

The Sustainability Plan provides information on how the event delivery organizations intend to achieve sustainability objectives. The following five sustainability themes provide focus for the event management:

  • Energy and Emissions
  • Resource Efficiency
  • Natural Habitats and Wildlife
  • Inclusion
  • Engagement

For the America’s Cup Event Authority, sustainability means optimizing the social, economic and environmental impacts of our activities in delivering the 34th America’s Cup, to enrich the communities we visit and protect natural ecosystems.

Healthy Oceans Project

Jill further explained while there are numerous issues affecting ocean health, the America’s Cup Healthy Ocean Project will highlight the following three areas where the project partners believe its stakeholders can have a significant direct impact:

  • the establishment of marine protected areas as reserves of marine biodiversity;
  • the reduction of the amount of plastic debris going into the ocean; and,
  • increasing consumer demand for sustainable sea life (sustainable seafood).

The America’s Cup Sustainability Plan was developed by the America’s Cup Event Authority, in consultation with the San Francisco Department of the Environment, various City Departments, the America’s Cup Organizing Committee, and other relevant event delivery partners, for the events taking place in San Francisco.

You can download the plan to learn more!

As a member of the board of directors of the Educational Tall Ship Project, I am getting excited for this event as an opportunity to promote the health of our oceans, a thrilling connection to the natural world, and a friendly international competition in my community.


Big Bang Gala 2012: Illuminate

Explore the tastes, sounds, and creatures of the night at the California Academy of Sciences during the Big Bang Gala, a special evening benefiting the Academy's research and education programs. The evening features Ira Flatow, NPR science correspondent and host of Talk Of The Nation: Science Friday; Dean Kamen inventor of the Segway and many other inventions; Salman Khan, founder and one-man faculty of the Khan Academy; and Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google.

Big Bang Gala 2012: Party After Dark

April 19, 2012
8:30pm to midnight
For adults 21+

Tickets to the Gala are sold-out (!), but tickets are still available for Party After Dark, a post-dinner celebration featuring live music by Fitz and The Tantrums, late-night bites, and an open bar. Tickets for Party After Dark are $75 ($45 of each ticket is tax-deductible). For more information call 415.379.5411 or email

Join me!


Don't Be a Hater, Be a Donater!

Joe Montana and Ashkon remind San Francisco, "Don't Hate, Donate!"