Four reasons why I have hope

I hold tightly onto an observation that Paul Hawken made in 2007. In his book Blessed Unrest, Hawken describes the millions of people around the world who are working for social change and environmental sustainability. They work on a multitude of issues at every scale. They are tireless activists and dedicated leaders. Yet there isn’t one leader or even a name or label to assign the whole collection of “do gooders.” They’re everywhere and doing all they can to make right on this planet of ours.

I love this observation. There is so much hope in it. It’s like turning the half empty glass (greed, corruption, violence, destruction) that we hear so much about over to find the glass is half full. The glass, and this world, is full of people creating, healing, and restoring. This feels so powerful and empowering.

Every year I design and lead the Open Space Conference in the San Francisco Bay Area. At the conference we create the opportunity for the land conservation community in the region to get inspired and get energized. We pick our heads up from the desk and from our local geography. And we spend a day in conversation with other change makers, earth menders, and society healers.

The 2016 Open Space Conference on May 19 at the Craneway in Richmond, CA.

At this year’s conference, which was held last week in Richmond, CA, we heard from four people that more people should know about. They give me hope for the world. They represent the half full glass and they should be widely known and celebrated.

Betty Reid Soskin.

Betty started working for the National Park Service as a Ranger at age 85. She’s now 94. She tells masterful stories about the history of Richmond during World War II in ways that feel alive and 100% relevant to today. Betty works at the Rosie the Riveter Visitor Center in Richmond where she tells of how Richmond changed the world. I feel inspired by every word she says.

Stacy Bare.

Stacy is a force of nature. Standing tall at what must be 7 feet, Stacy brings a sharp wit and a deep passion for getting people outside as Director of Sierra Club Outdoors. What impresses me most about him, though, is how he elegantly turns the act of preserving land from a defensive act (Protect! Defend! Save!) into something that is creative and essential. Parks and open spaces allow us to be human and alive, he says. I couldn’t agree more.

Peter Byck.

What’s not to love about someone who creates a film called “Soil Carbon Cowboys”? The title is quirky, and the man behind it is intelligent and inquisitive. Peter is working with some big dogs — the World Bank for example — to understand how we can put carbon in the ground through innovative ranching techniques. I hope he’s onto something.

Sedrick Mitchell.

Sedrick is a quiet man with profound thoughts and a masterful way of telling a story. He works for California State Parks and I’m guessing that most of his days are spent in bureaucracy. In the hours that I talked with him in preparation for the Open Space Conference, I heard a philosopher, psychologist, and activist on the other end of the phone. We talked about diversity, inclusion, and equity in ways that pushed my thinking on a topic I think a lot about. I know that Sedrick is making changes to this world, even from within the bureaucracy.

There were 450 people in the room at the Open Space Conference last week. Given plenty of time and no word count limit, I could list so many people who are changing the world. In the room that day there were visionaries, artists, community builders, and advocates. Every person attending that day is somehow contributing to a Bay Area with parks, farmlands, and open spaces, and therefore doing the essential work that Stacy Bare talks about. Each in their own way.

There’s so much goodness in the world if we choose to see it.

Open Space Conference attendees took a walk on the Bay Trail at lunch..

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