Importance of Natural Resources

2019 Spring Albright Lecture as part of the Latinxs and the Environment Summit

(serene music) – Welcome back. It’s a very late good morning and
almost good afternoon, and thank you all for being here. I think mostly, I’m seeing familiar faces have been here this morning, but I hope some new people
have joined as well. So for all of you, my
name is David Ackerly. I’m the Dean of the College
of Natural Resources. We’re here to celebrate the second Latinos and the Environment Summit, and as part of that, we have incorporated our
Horace Albright Lecture Series, which is an ongoing lecture series in the College of Natural Resources, held once or twice a year. It’s been going for more than 50 years, bringing in an illustrious
series of distinguished speakers addressing issues of American conservation and the public good for many, many years. Horace Albright was a 1912
graduate of UC Berkeley. I mentioned for those of
you here in the morning that he was one of those who then went on to
contribute to the early days of the National Park Service. He was the second director, and later, also played a role in the UC Natural Reserve System, our system of 40 research reserves covering hundreds of thousands
of acres across California, and all of those come together in relation to our speaker today, who I’ll introduce in a moment, and in connection with
East Bay Regional Parks. Many of you may know from your invitation that we invited Representative Grijalva from the Arizona 3rd District
to speak to us today. He’s the Chairman of the House
Natural Resources Committee. There is an ongoing and
unresolved labor negotiation between UC Berkeley
and some of its unions, and out of respect for that negotiation, Representative Grijalva said
he wasn’t able to attend. Now we’re very, very lucky and fortunate to have Ana Alvarez here with us. And I also want to acknowledge
Ana’s also well aware of our labor negotiations, and on behalf of her and
East Bay Regional Parks, certainly honor and
respect those discussions. Ana also really did wanna
be here and contribute and acknowledge the
depth of the connection between UC Berkeley,
between East Bay Parks, and the importance of the event in the discussion that we’re having today. Ana is, I will introduce,
Ana is here in conversation with Adrianna Quintero, and
let me introduce them both. Ana is the Deputy General Manager of East Bay Regional Park District. That is the largest local park
agency in the United States and one of the or the oldest, and Ana will tell us more about it, and really has marked a distinguished role in local leadership for
open space conservation. Ana’s professional accomplishments demonstrate a strong acumen for proactive and meaningful civic engagement, community building based on public trust, and sustainability
planning based on science, which she believes are paramount for the vibrancy of healthy
communities and parks. Ana received her doctoral degree in policy planning and development from the University of
Southern California. Her doctoral dissertation
focused on San Francisco’s parks and open space sustainability plan, establishing climate change
adaptation strategies and Mayor Ed Lee bestowed upon her the San Francisco Green Pioneer Award in recognition of that work. She has also been a good friend to UC and to the UC Natural Reserve System, as the system has been
celebrating its 50th anniversary and embarking on a campaign for the long-term
sustainability of our parks and of our own parks and natural areas. She is also the vice chair of San Francisco Bay
Restoration Authority, the Advisory Committee, and contributes to her profession by working with the next generation of park and recreation
directors across the nation, serving as faculty in the Directors School for the National Recreation
and Park Association, focusing on conservation and
the role of local governments on issues of othering and belonging and strategically positioning
open space as natural capital for nature-based solutions
in our communities. And in about a week, Ana
and the East Bay Parks will be hosting the national conference of local park districts, and a large number of people
coming to the Bay Area to visit and learn from each other. Ana is joined in discussion
with Adrianna Quintero, Director of Diversity,
Equity, and Inclusion at the Energy Foundation. Adrianna received her law
degree from Boston University and began her career at the Natural Resources Defense Council as an attorney litigating
cases on pesticides, toxics, drinking water and air quality. In 2007, she founded
and led for many years as executive director, Voces Verdes, a national coalition of
Latino business, health, community, and cultural
leaders, advocates, and organizations calling for action on clean energy and climate, and one of the first organizations dedicated to building
leadership among Latinos and Latinas on sustainability. She previously also served as Director of Partner and Community Engagement at the Natural Resources Defense Council before moving to her present position at the Energy Foundation. So, very, very pleased
to have our guests here. As a quick note, please do check your
cell phones are silenced. We ask that there’s no
photography or recording during the Albright event, and we have excellent recording services and this will all be posted on our website in a week or two and available for you and to share with friends and colleagues. So without further ado,
I’m very, very pleased to welcome Adrianna and
Ana to join us today. (audience applauding) – Thank you so much, Dean. It’s such a pleasure to
be here with you, Ana, and I know that we are really excited to learn so much from you, so we’re gonna dive right in.
– Okay. – Starting with what seems
like a simple question, but I’ll ask it anyway. Why are parks, and especially
urban parks, so important? – Thank you so much, Adrianna. I’ve dedicated my entire career, my life to champion
parks in many communities because they really are the
key to vibrant communities. Parks contribute to the local economy. Parks are a source of
workforce development, for green jobs as we see today. Parks also create the next
generation of stewards to be able to move forward
the conservation movement in 2020 and beyond. Parks have a very special
place in most families and in communities, ’cause those are the places
where people come out and play, those are the places where
community life comes alive, and those are the places
where also, nature resides. It could be a small
neighborhood park with a garden where the elderly can come out and do their daily exercise and be able to interface
with their communities and their neighbors, or it could be a bigger park where large civic engagement
events take place, where actually in the commons are where the people can
come out and demonstrate, where people can come out and actually enjoy the
democracy that we have. And we see that very
clearly in San Francisco, we see that very clearly in San Jose, in Boston, New York. You have to think about parks as having a multifunctional and multidimensional vibrancy to any city, irrespectfully of its size. Parks also create those green connectors, where that’s where my interests also lie is those green connectors
in that urban fabric for wildlife to migrate. Oftentimes, we’re very busy doing the latest hipster
event at Dolores Park, where you cannot even
see a blade of grass, but that’s really where you will find the respite for certain birds as their migrating through San Francisco, or at times, certain species
of even plant material, plant material that migrates through, much, much slower, obviously, but through centuries. So those are the green connectors. And at times, when we present or educate and inform the public of the
value of those public spaces or those public lands, people start engaging and
having a different relationship with those green spaces. It’s more than the immediate
reward that they can receive by doing the latest hipster event or the latest concert in Golden Gate Park or the latest activity or an art festival at Redwood Park. It’s about understanding
the connections with nature and being able to reconnect with nature, and most importantly, for some people, it can even be a spiritual experience. – Yeah, I was mentioning
to you that just yesterday, my son came back from a
school trip to Yosemite, and he’s 13, so he’s not, although he is a little bit in tune with his spiritual nature, he was truly transformed and even commented on how it
was such a unifying experience for them yes, being together, but they had been together
on other camping trips, but being especially in this park was really transformational. – Our national parks are really a jewel and we have a gorgeous
national park system, and at times, we lose sight of that because we can have it so easily. But in fact, it was the good
vision of many, many people, and it’s through the university
and the reason why I’m here, it was actually people like you, the students I’m speaking to, the alumni of the Colleges
of Natural Resources, the Department of Forestry that created the National
Park Services system. It came from UC Berkeley,
which is tremendous. (audience member speaking faintly) Yes, right, (chuckles) and I’m very proud of that. In addition to that, it was UC Berkeley that influenced the
development of the state parks in California, which is
also an amazing legacy that modeled the rest of the systems for other state park systems, and it was UC Berkeley again, through the alumni and the professors who had the vision with
the National Park Services for what they called the East Forest here in the East Bay for the creation of the East
Bay Regional Park District. So in many ways, I remember
oftentimes throughout my career where people will say to me, you know, Ana, don’t
forget that San Francisco or the Bay Area leads California and California leads the nation. – Right, and the world in many ways. – And the world in many ways, and I will say yes, yes, that’s true. Okay, but that’s a political
statement. (laughs) (audience laughing)
– Yeah, that’s true. Well, I was saying it more
as we set good examples, and I think that what you’re telling us about the park system is
a really great example. – It’s an application, you feel it, it’s very tangible, and it’s a legacy. And it’s possibly perhaps,
and most likely than not, that will be our salvation, the solution for those very complex and very difficult issues
that we’re dealing with, to understand the value
of the ecological systems that reside in those parks, whether they’re small, green parks that may be found in the urban
fabric, in those connections, or the majestic national parks
and the majestic state parks, and of course, original
parks here in the East Bay. Most people don’t know that while it was featured
during the transition of the last presidential administration, there was a great article that came out in a San Francisco magazine that really inspired me again and gave me a lot of courage to continue to do my work
under this administration because it really showcased
the San Francisco Bay Area and it gave it historical context and it provided the framework
to continue to doing our work as the policies were changing at the federal level and the state level. And basically, all of you should know that you live in a very special place, that most people don’t
have that opportunity. We live surrounded by
a connection of parks at the national level
with national monuments, state parks, the greatest majority in numbers of state parks, as well as regional parks and city parks like the city parks of San Francisco with 1.3 million acres of open space, unprecedented and nowhere else
found in the United States. While New York as Central Park, Golden Gate Park is bigger. (audience laughing)
(laughs) It is. And Boston has beautiful open spaces and so does the Carolinas
and other places. Really, the Bay Area is very, very unique. And if you look at who are the
leaders in Washington today, they’re all coming from California and they’re coming from the Bay Area. – So you alluded to the importance of this ecological framework
that our parks embody. You mentioned the fact
that they help not only as migratory places for birds and for even seeds and
such on a slower scale, but very important. Obviously, one of the biggest problems that we face right now is climate change, and California has also
tried to lead the way in really setting the pace on how we tackle this massive problem. With that in mind, what
role do you see parks playing for us? – As I said before, Adrianna, I fundamentally believe
that open space in parks, even the green spaces,
as small as they may be, we know for a fact that they
have an ecological function or what is also known as
eco services and benefits. Together, thinking about the aggregate is managing the land, managing those ecological services in a way that provides solutions, so they’re called nature-based solutions to issues pertaining to air quality, issues pertaining to water quality, issues pertaining to even wildfires, such a threat, especially
here in the East Bay and the Bay Area. What we’re seeing today, the
impacts of climate change, whether or not our federal government will acknowledge the
presence and the impacts of having to manage natural
and cultural resources in a changing climate, the reality is that we are experiencing those fires that we’ve never seen before in the history of mankind, where we have a new natural phenomenon called fire tornadoes. In Paradise, it’s difficult to, and I
don’t mean to scare anyone, but it’s difficult to
comprehend the magnitude of those impacts when
the climate has changed, where the fire moved 60
football fields a minute. So now we have to think about how can we best coexist and maintain those green
spaces so that we can have and benefit from those ecological
functions or eco services while at the same time, being able to have a better
coexistence with the wildlife and how to better manage
and plan the fringe between the urban interface
with the wild land. And those are very tricky, difficult things to address, but we have a great fighting chance by correctly managing that land. So as we think of conservation, most people think of
conservation as being able to acquire the land, protect the land, to sustain the land. But rather, as we move into
the next era of conservation, we’re going to have to do
things very differently, and we’re going to have
to be able to resolve for those issues and be able to not necessarily monetize or capitalize on nature, but certainly to bring it forth forward, first and foremost, as
we think of planning, as we think about resolving for those tricky things in the cities. And in the original cities, all those sprawling
communities that we have, we continue to build
and build to the fringe and then we blame nature for the mishaps. – And so one of the well
known values of parks is they do help prevent or diminish the urban heat island impact and air quality, as you mentioned. But is there a level at which it’s, a park, in your opinion, is too small to truly have
an ecological benefit, or does even the smallest park have that type of ecological
and environmental benefit? – I would tell you that if it’s correctly planned and if it’s correctly landscaped and it has the right use and the right proximity of uses, as small as it might be, even your private yards
and your private patios play a very important role and contributes to that
ecological system overall. Wildlife, and I love to
say this to planners, wildlife doesn’t identify or
recognize land jurisdictions. (chuckles) I know that really well, as I have stories to share. (audience chuckling) And they don’t recognize
those land jurisdictions or the subdivisions. What they do recognize is an
opportunity to take respite as they migrate, an opportunity to find a nesting place or an opportunity for food and water. When we experienced one of California’s
most difficult droughts, I was making a plea to
everyone at every opportunity to allow to provide,
even in your own home, small containers of water for the bees, for the birds, and we lose a lot of wildlife as they’re traversing
the freeways, the roads, the subdivisions, the streets because what they’re
looking for is for water. We saw a lot of mountain
lions coming down. We saw also deer and coyotes, and they get trampled by our way of life. So just putting water and having made water
available is fundamental. We’re experiencing right now the decline of the monarch butterfly, which is a very difficult piece. And it’s hard for me at times, in understanding all what’s at play and all that what’s at risk, because it becomes very dark and it’s very difficult to
manage all of that personally and for people that really have a true biophilic affiliation with the land. But there’s hope and the hope is that while
the monarch butterfly is declining, which
has a beautiful history and trajectory in Mexico, and then it’s come all the
way here to the United States, and to think that it’s declining because we were not thoughtful enough to do our planning correctly because we were not thoughtful enough to protect their sources
of food and water. But what we can do is what remains, is to give it a fighting chance, and we have study after study that demonstrates the
type of plant material that people can put in their own backyard, in their front garden that can provide the place for
the butterflies to procreate and for food for the butterflies. But it really needs a collective and intentional action from folks. And at times, people think, in Washington, they have a new terminology ’cause they’re not
accepting climate change. The legislators call
it climate disruption. I said fine. (audience laughing)
Call it what you want. Climate disruption. So as we’re being
disrupted by the climate, although we created
climate change, but okay, we’re being disrupted by the climate, we have an opportunity
and a responsibility to be able to give
nature a fighting chance. And in turn, nature will protect us. – Well, and in hearing you
talk about this connection between the parks and how much nature depends on these as a place to congregate, to breed, to move forward, it reminds me of what
you just said earlier, which is how parks serve
our communities, right? They serve as these gathering places, as places where we learn,
where we reconnect with nature, and they also help our health in many ways with exercise and such.
– Absolutely. – Because we know that unfortunately, historically, there are many
underserved communities, and those are usually the
communities that lack open space and parks the most. In your role now at the East
Bay Regional Parks District, how do you feel, and in your history in San Francisco, how are we doing on that front? And how can we do better
to serve those communities so that it’s not just those
who are close to Tilden or close to Golden Gate Park, but really, the truly
underserved communities so that they’re not concrete jungles? – Yes, thank you Adrianna. It’s like everything with parks, as you manage land and open space, people tell me you have a great job, such an easy job, or my father, around the
Christmas table, he says, as people are sharing their latest news, he says, “Oh yes, and Ana? “She’s still working with
the summer camps.” (laughs) (audience laughing) I go no, actually, I’m
dealing with wildfires. (audience laughing) But I’m a lifetime
member of the Girl Scouts and I came up with Girl Scouting, and so yes, I’ve done a
lot of summer camps, but (Adrianna laughing) the reality is that it’s
a very complex issue and I’m a Latina, I’m a person of color, and I’ve dedicated my career
to understanding nature and protecting nature and conservation and outdoor recreation
and public recreation. I experienced, when I first started with the East Bay Regional Park District, I went to visit one of the parks, and I like to do that on my own rather than going with the staff because I like to experience the park without being surrounded
literally by 15 people, from the assistant general
manager of operations to the chief of park operations, the supervisor and the ranger. I just wanna experience the park when people are there, so on a Sunday. So I went out on a Sunday to Lake Chabot and I went home and I told
my husband, “Oh my gosh.” I was so moved because I can literally, I did a 360 turn, and in Lake Chabot by the marina, there was a family that
was a Mexican family, yes I can say it was a Mexican family because of Vicente Fernandez, la pinata, and everybody was there and
they were speaking Spanish, and there was a Muslim
family doing their prayers, there was a Korean family that they were doing their food, and there was a group of elderly people, what they seemed to be, as white people, getting ready to go on a very
long hike around the lake, 13 miles, with naturalists. And so it was great experience to see how people do come out and
enjoy those open spaces in one community, and that
community came to life, irrespectfully of their
religion, their language, and their customs. People also say that parks are not, especially the state park system, that Latinos are not out there, and I said, “Well, you’re
not looking close enough, “because we are out there.” And actually, it’s in all the state parks around California’s coast. They’re beloved by the Latino community ’cause I worked in all
those coastal communities. And we do have a great
affinity for the outdoors. What they’re looking for is for a very specific mindset of what they think in their mind represents the Latino community. And I oftentimes speak to my staff and to elected officials and
those who would like to hear me that the Latino, not to generalize us, not to place us in a box. When we’re speaking about
workforce development, when we’re speaking
about having Latino youth in internship programs, for whether it’s in hydrology,
ecology, wildlife biologist, that we are represented
to a certain extent. We just need to look for them in water, and we need to mentor them and we need to bring them forward. But we are represented
to a certain extent. We just have a specific mindset to think about the
economically disadvantaged, the newly arrived immigrant, and people that are having
that particular experience where we are a very diverse community. And I literally was
having this conversation with a supervising naturalist, and I said, “If that is the goal, “you can certainly reach out
and get yourself some champions “that will champion your cause. “And if I were you, if that is your goal, “I would tap into educated Latinos “who are in the environmental sciences, “who are in planning,”
I’m so proud of you, “who are in planning and they
will be able to assist you.” And he looked at me and he says, “I don’t know anyone like that, Ana.” And I said. (laughs)
(audience laughing) Really, you don’t know any? And I said, “And I’m not an anomaly. “I am not an anomaly.” We just need to be willing
to make those bridges and make those connections. – And I definitely want us to talk about how we elevate that,
’cause it’s very important, especially for our
audience here at Latinos and the Environment. I also wanna touch a little
bit, before we do that, on the use issue, because what you’re talking
about is this beautiful, just mosaic of use in Chabot is too often not the case. You have, I remember in
my previous experience, talking to people from the park service who were just racking their brains about dealing with one, how do we make sure that
more people of color are coming to the parks, and two, how do we deal
with the differences in how people use parks? And I feel that it was this unwillingness to kind of go with the
prescribed, traditional use of I’m going to take a long hike. I loved your example of a
13-mile hike with a naturalist or birdwatching, whatever it might be. That’s not how everybody uses our parks, and we need to create those spaces and it seems like your examples
of what you’ve done here could really be taken to so
many of our parks nationwide. – Yes, and don’t take me wrong. There’s always the opportunity to improve. One observation also as we manage the land is we have a tendency to think, to do, I should say, yes Ana, I understand, we will place valuable signs on the parks. Great, and as I walk onto the site, the bilingual sign says
you shall not do this, no, no, no, no. And I said, “Well, that’s not
very welcoming. (chuckles) “That is not welcoming “and that’s the only that you translated.” Whether you translate it in Arabic or you translate it in Spanish, we have a beautiful community in Fremont of Arabic and Farsi speakers, and I said, “And they also have a
very true connection, “cultural connection with the land. “Why don’t we welcome
people in their language? “Why don’t we put our interpretive signs, “which are beautiful,
in different languages?” And we’re doing that. And actually, the East
Bay Regional Park District was one of the first park systems that placed the first bilingual and bicultural interpretive
sign in Redwood Park. So if you’re hiking amongst
the majestic redwoods, and it created me to pause and to think about who had
the thoughtfulness to do this, but it’s a beautiful
interpretive location, in (speaking in foreign language), the whole history of the
redwoods in the East Bay. And you’re in this
cathedral-like environment and you stumble into that, which was just an amazing experience. – That’s amazing, and that’s exactly it. That is how we make people feel included, not by telling them what they cannot do, especially if so many of those things are part of their cultural traditions, and creating spaces, I
assume, for different uses. But I really love that example. That’s brilliant. So you mentioned a little
bit about representation, because I do think that
whoever created that sign, whoever thought of that
had that perspective, and those perspectives
are generally absent unless we have a diverse workforce, unless we’re truly
inclusive in that workforce and really equitably listening to what people are contributing and creating that
equitable use opportunity. Tell us a little bit about that. I mean, you oversee a staff
of ecologists, biologists, all types of scientists,
policymakers, planners. You’ve mentioned so many different
people who you work with. Do you feel that, in your experience, we have enough diversity in that space, not just here in the Bay
Area, but even beyond, ’cause obviously, you’re
part of the larger network, and what can we do better? – Well, as I was listening
to the panelists, I was having some great moments in looking back in my career. And I have to start by
acknowledging the university and the College of Natural Resources for bringing together those practitioners, Latino practitioners in that field. This is the first time that I
see all of us coming together. When I met you, when we had
that phone conversation, you and I had the same experience. We have been working
diligently in parallel, and we haven’t had the opportunity
to really come together. And we’ve been experiencing
the same issues and we’re having to have
those moments of courage and those moments of
introspection without much support because we really haven’t
had the opportunity to come together. This is the space where we’re doing that, where I’m feeling that, and I’m very grateful for that because I, like the panelists, found myself more often than not as being the only person of color, nevermind being the only Latino or Latina, being the only person of color
and being the only woman. And you work through that and you do find yourself
in uncomfortable moments, and you find yourself making decisions. Do I step up and speak up for those who’ll be coming behind me or for those who are
right there next to me, or do I manage my career, or do I attend to the problem at hand? And those are difficult issues that we’re having to manage and balance, and at times, they might be conflicting, but it does take moral courage. And we are, indeed, unrepresented, and I would encourage, and that’s why I was so
delighted to be here. It was not easy for me to come because of the labor dispute, but it was very important to me because of the history that
we share with the university, but also because this is a conversation that needs to be had. And I look at you as the future of the next generation of scientists, and we’ve been waiting for you. (chuckles) We’ve been waiting for
you so, you have no idea. And we will mentor you. We will make those pathways for you. And there’s many of us
in the private sector, as well as in the public sector, in managing those ecological resources, anxiously waiting for you because it really matters. And like I said, if we are
to have a fighting chance to be able to resolve
social equity issues, environmental justice issues and give nature a fighting chance as well, and be able to protect those
vulnerable communities, the elderly and the children for the economically disadvantaged and the newly arrived
immigrant communities, it would take all of us. And get your education,
finish your education. There’s plenty of jobs
waiting for you out there. – I just have to applaud that.
(audience applauding) The applause are for
you and for the students because I couldn’t, I really couldn’t have
said it better myself. I think that that is so true. We’ve been waiting for this moment for many, many decades, and so many who came before
us who had it even worse, and I think that it does start, you know, it’s wonderful
to be here at Berkeley, at the College of Natural Resources, because here is where it starts, where if we’re not
represented in the workplace, we need to be represented here so that we can be
represented in the workplace. We need to know that we can
look towards our mentors here, our faculty here to say I belong here, I’m represented here,
my experience matters and is not a hindrance, it’s valuable. – It’s added value, absolutely. – Added value, exactly,
and nobody can change that. What we’ve experienced, no
matter what your background, is truly only yours. So, thank you so much for that comment. Thinking of students and the future, I’d like to just ask you, as you look towards what we have now, whether it’s politically,
ecologically, our challenges, conservation has always
been about conserving, about gathering and
protecting and setting aside, and that’s always under
threat from development, from housing, et cetera. How do you think we can
protect against those threats, whether they be ecological,
policy-based, or development? – Yes, thinking about
conservation, what lies ahead in the future, right? And we have to acknowledge,
and thank you for reminding me, we have to acknowledge all the people in which shoulders we’re standing upon. We’re standing on the great work of many, many environmentalists and people that have a strong
passion for conservation. In the East Bay or in the
San Francisco Bay Area, there’s a beautiful legacy
of conservation that really, it’s a model internationally. And I am in awe of
working with Robert Doyle, who actually was able to triple the size of the East Bay Regional Park District. And he was, at that time, he came up as a park ranger and went through the different
promotional opportunities within the district and now is
the sitting general manager. And he was able to, in his career, his focus was land acquisition. And he tells me the stories, the war stories with the developers, which I share some of those stories in Southern California,
actually in San Diego, in a coastal community. And yes, those are wars that we were taking on with developers. Those are very critical
legislative actions pertaining to the Quimby Act and how we abstract from
the developer’s fees to be able to create
community facilities and parks and defining those parks, so defining those
sprawling regional cities or communities, rural communities. But conservation right now, it’s taking a turn in the sense that there are some inholdings in parks that we would like to acquire. There is still a lot of
work that needs to be done to make those connections
with large green spaces. And to give you an idea, the East Bay Regional Park District will connect to a state park. We will connect to a national park because it’s about making
the corridors for wildlife and for plant material, right? And it’s for the
preservation of that space. But at the same time, it’s mostly, now it’s about what I call conservation
is going to a new era where it’s about reconciliation of the natural ecological systems. So how do we reconcile that land to be able to recreate what it was? Because what we’re buying
or what we’re acquiring is land that has already
been used as ranches, as agricultural lots, so we have to reestablish
those ecological systems and be able to heal the land so that they can play an
effective role in that watershed. And we have to reestablish
the native plant material or those ecological systems. So it’s called large reconciliation of those ecological systems, while at the same, defending legislatively the opportunities to be able to position those large green spaces as the natural capital to be able to address air quality issues or the water quality issues. We’re at a cusp right now of decisions while California leads the
nation in cap and trade. It’s a fantastic program
and fantastic legislation, but we’re still having
those difficult battles to be able to say we don’t need that, rather than building a
manmade-built sewer system, have we thought about doing
something more natural? We don’t need that manmade large system. Let’s think about how we
manage all those resources differently by maximizing
those ecological services. And it has a value, so I, where did Emilio go? Emilio, are you still here? Okay, so Emilio, who was just here, he used to work for the SFPUC, and my biggest battles in San Francisco were precisely because
the PUC was coming in and they took, they
appropriated through legislation the water rights under the parks, which meant that Golden Gate Park was naturally irrigated through a well, and now, for the first time, we had to pay for water, and it was a cost of $3 million, which is substantial in a small budget. And not only that, so I engaged in a
conversation with the PUC and I said, “Fine, I cannot stop you “to take the water rights from the park, “but let me talk to you about
the replenishing of that water “through the rain, through vegetation “to replenish your aquifers, “because that has value as well.” No Ana, we’re not gonna do that now. We’re not going to do the cost analysis on how much water we’re replenishing. No, but that has value. That has monetary value, (chuckles) and the reason why I was making
that argument was because just to be able to defend
the natural landscapes, the historical landscapes
that were in Golden Gate Park. So before you come in and
start trenching through, understand where you’re walking into. So it’s the ethical place, and not disturbing the habitat. But in conservation today,
I digress in my story, they’re very difficult decisions, and they’re trade-off decisions, and the East Bay Regional Park District has the perfect example. We’re the first agency and the only agency to have all of its
regulatory permits on hand to be able to do the
vegetation management, to reduce the fuels, and to reduce the fuels and reduce the wildfire hazard. But it took us 10 years. We had a beautiful planning document and it took us not 10
years to plan the document, 10 years to get the permits because the discussions
with the regulatory agencies were about, rightfully so, protecting the endangered species or the federally-protected
species of animals, like the California red-legged frog or the tiger salamander. But we also got sued. We got sued by the Sierra Club, we got sued by other entities because we were taking down trees. And so people got very
angry, and rightfully, people have a right to their emotions, but they got very angry because they have a true
biophilic connection with the trees. And so what they see,
a beautiful eucalyptus that may have a nesting bird population, at times, regretfully, what I see is a fuse lighter and the projection of the embers up to 30 miles from that park. And so we need to be able to manage and do the right forestry practices to be able to manage for that hazard. And those are the difficult
trade-offs, you know? – It’s funny you mention that because I have that visceral reaction. In fact, I even blogged
about it, embarrassingly, but no, I truly, I stand by my blog because I couldn’t believe
they were taking my trees in the Presidio, and I called them mine because I was with them
whenever I walked around in the Presidio. It’s still this really, I cried looking at some of
these trees be taken down, and it’s hard. I met with them and learned that it was exactly what you’re saying, to protect the watershed, to revitalize it so that it
did not pose these threats. And still, it’s still difficult for me to see some of these tree removals and to wonder what’s behind them. And I think that’s
where education comes in because even as someone who, and I spoke to all of my expert friends, and I still wasn’t satisfied because it was reconciling
the emotional reaction of taking something that
belonged to all of us for a future reason that I couldn’t see. – So maybe this will help you. – Thank you, please.
(Ana and audience laughing) Sorry, this has turned into
a therapy session. (laughs) – As we remove the trees, we are allowing the sunlight to come in and it’s replenishing
the health of the soil, which that’s where we
have the greatest chances to be able to address most
of the difficult problems pertaining to understanding. We still don’t know all
of the multimillion number of microbes that live in that soil. It’s probably the most unknown
universe in mankind, soil. And it’s also about giving the opportunity for the forest that
exists and will remain, to give it a fighting chance because the fire will go through. So, fire is very natural. It’s part of the ecological system. But when fire goes through, the trees will have the resiliency to be able to survive the fire. When we don’t do the forestry practices, and you guys know better than me because I am not a scientist, I just learn how to talk about
these issues with the public in championing my staff, but it’s about being able to give that forest an opportunity and to have that green
space in perpetuity, more than your grandchildren. This is about planning and managing land for the next 100 years,
the next 200 years. – That’s fantastic, so on that note, what is your message to
these wonderful students and to those who are
viewing this remotely? What should we all do so that we can be better stewards of the environment through our parks and help build community
while also protecting nature? – Certainly, thank you. I will say that as
conservation starts shaping in its next version or the
next era of conservation, to think about those natural systems as you’re learning all the science and all the technical knowledge, to think about their
relevance with the public and the communities. So it’s nature for the sake of nature, which has its own ethic, and we have a moral responsibility, because we are the first entity as mankind to be able to manipulate nature. No one else can do that. But rather than controlling
and manipulating nature with all that technical
expertise and science, it’s about becoming
the stewards of nature, because it’s about understanding
what lives naturally and what exists naturally, and everything’s
interconnected, including us. We are part of that ecological system. And so it’s becoming the next stewards, and to be the next stewards, yes, of course, I said
finish your graduate degrees, get your education, get
that technical knowledge, but it’s also about
understanding the people and understanding yourself, leading individuals, having messages that resonate with the public and understand the public
role in all of this, but also having a self-awareness to be able to manage yourself in terms of emotional intelligence, being able to identify
your leadership style for what you’re trying to accomplish. We all can have very
different leadership styles, but it’s the ability to be able to change that style based
on the circumstances that you’re facing. And at this venture in my life, it really boils down to managing people, leading people, and it’s
not through authority, but rather, through cooperation. That’s why I was a little
sensitive about the labor dispute because I’m fully
sensitive of the struggle for a working wage here,
especially in the Bay Area. But this is also equally as important, so nothing is easy, so you
have to make those trade-offs. And it’s about managing yourself. I heard some of the comments pertaining to our experience
as people of color in places where we are
not accustomed to be at, places where just our physical presence changes the dynamic. Well, can you reconcile that so it doesn’t become a distraction? Other’s people’s uncertainties, other people’s insecurities, can you reconcile that
internally within you so that it doesn’t become a distraction and you can continue with your mission? That is so critical. I can’t emphasize it enough. And I’ve heard, and I, myself, have to
deal with this issue, specifically for the students of color, what is the image of a conservationist? White, right? That’s what we think. Well, you know, you have
to understand your history and understand where our parents come from and where we come from. The most amazing ecological systems, while of course, I’m in love
with the national parks, but they also exist in other places. So the best hikers? For generations, in Peru, the Incas. The best runners, where are they? In Chihuahua, right? – [Audience Member] Raramuri. – Where? – [Audience Member] Raramuri. – [Adrianna] Raramuri. – Oh, okay, there you go, yes. So we have to change that image and it’s okay that we walk, that we hike. And I tell my staff, no I am not going to go
camping with you for nine days and finish the Ridgeline (laughs) from Wildcat Canyon all
the way to Anthony Chabot. My cousins do that in Mexico in the northern state of Durango. I don’t do that because I was not raised in that environment. I come from Mexico City,
a big urban entity. But I will hike 13 miles with you, and I think that’s pretty good. – Yeah, I’d say that too.
(Ana and audience laughing) – And it’s okay that Columbia and other sportswear companies have not changed their clothing styles to meet women of color. No, we’re shaped
differently, and that’s okay. So it’s okay for me to go out and meet with the Redwood League president and he’s sporting his, the greatest and latest hiking sportswear, and it’s okay that I’m coming literally from doing my house chores
(audience laughing) at my house, listening to
(speaking in foreign language), listening to some Mexican music. And then I go yeah, let’s
talk about the redwood trees, and I’m in my jeans. So we have to make space for ourselves and we have to forgive ourselves and say that it’s okay if
we don’t fit that image, other people’s images. – And make peace with ourselves and peace with nature follows. Thank you so much, Ana Alvarez. (applauds) Big round of applause.
– Thank you. – Thank you. (audience applauding) – [Audience Member] First
of all, thank you both. That really meant a lot to me, Ana. Your leadership is clearly something to be respected. I really appreciate the way that you lead and I felt everything that you said resonate with me really
deeply, so thank you for that. I found myself a couple of months ago on a personal journey to
reconnect with nature, and it’s brought me a lot
of clarity in my life, and I sense that does, nature has an effect on
people in that way for many, in many different ways. And so, as we look at the future and how we continue to
reconnect with nature, I’m thinking how do we, as
parks, prepare for that? How do we train folks who
come on as park rangers, the 21st, 22nd century park ranger, and we hold these spaces for people not only as a land for conservation, but also as a land to recreate
and to have social bonds and to reconnect with the
most direct connection to our ancestors, which is nature? – Thank you so much for your kind words. Diversifying the workforce. That’s a very technical body of work and it’s very intentional. But in the parks industry,
it’s more than that. It’s about growing the next
generation of stewards, it’s about growing the
next army of soldiers that would respect and protect the space where nature resides as we’re having to rethink
how we do our cities and there’s a great demand for that space. Oftentimes, people say, “Oh, so you’re with the East
Bay Regional Park District, “and open space, that’s great open space. “Can we go ahead and build this?” I said, “No, that’s where nature is. “That’s where nature resides
and there’s value to that. “That’s why we have those
ecological systems.” The East Bay Regional Park District, as I’m trying to define the
legacy for the district, not today, not 20 years ago, but the next 50 years is precisely that. How do we create the pathways
to create those soldiers, to create those next
stewards for that open space that can effectively make
the planning decisions, the ecological decisions to be able to steward that
land and protect that land and nature that resides in that land? And I oftentimes end up having very difficult conversations and
very inspiring conversations with my staff when I say the hope lies in
the communities of color. And I know by me saying that, it creates a whole ‘nother
wave that I need to attend to pertaining to the fragility of those that I left outside that statement. But I say that statement not lightly because it’s a simple game of numbers. The population will continue
to expand in California and continue to grow, and the population that’s fastest growing are people of color. But it’s not at the exclusion of others, but that’s really where the hope lies. – [Audience Member] Thank you. Could you, you were
talking about the future. Thank you for mentioning that. What’s your future vision for connecting those
disparate groups of people who love nature and people who, it’s not even part of their life? I’m thinking about public transit to parks and then bringing parks to
communities that don’t have parks or parks that have enough room for nature to coexist with people. – One of the areas that I’ve
dedicated a lot of time, and my general manager oftentimes asks, and he’s a very wise person and he says, “That’s a lot of work, Ana, “and that doesn’t have an immediate impact “in the local community.” And I say, “Yes, but it’s a responsibility “that I feel that I carry, “to be able to carry this
message across the nation.” And so I dedicate time
to educate and inform and tool the next
generation of park leaders. And I’ve done this, it’s
like going to Mecca. I go back East, or Midwest now, and I have very difficult
conversations with influencers and the next generation
of elected officials and the next administrators
of park systems, beautiful park systems, and I engage them, and the reaction is,
well, that’s California. Well, of course, Ana, you will say that. You’re from California. Of course, you’re coming from Berkeley. Well, I actually live in San Leandro. And I don’t mind having
those conversations and engaging them because their decisions and their positions in which they hold, that truly matters to be
able to bring that value or that connectivity with nature or bring nature back
into those communities, or simply to be able to
address social equity issues. And I put myself as an example, and they’re not easy decisions to be made because at times, you’re
putting your career on the line, but you have to speak of them in a way that is nonthreatening and you can bring people along. And I’ll give you a very specific example. In Oceanside, where I used to be the parks and recreation director, serving with the city manager on a community development committee because there were 42 subdivisions that the city was addressing at that time. 42 subdivisions. So it was the fastest
growing bedroom community in San Diego County. And thousands of homes, single-family homes being planned for. So I was sitting with the
public course director, with the economic development director, with the planning director
and said, “Oh yes, “Ana’s gonna talk about libraries “and Ana’s gonna talk
about pools and parks.” And I said, “Yes, but
I want to talk to you “about these gorgeous
facilities that are being built “east of the 5 freeway, “and all other poor and
left-behind older communities “where the majority of the
economically disadvantaged live. “It’s not being addressed.” Well, we’re bound by the Quimby Act, how we distribute in a district. I said, “So why don’t we
change the legislation?” What?
(audience chuckling) Yes, because you have to, our park system or your park system has to speak to equity issues, and we have to sustain those issues. And the city manager literally told me, “You know, that’s a great idea in concept. “It’s a lot of work “We don’t have the money
to hire a consultant. “If you wanna take it on
and if you wanna do that, “I wanna see a full plan.” But he gave me the opportunity, and we redid the districts and changed the legislation for Oceanside and we were able to infuse a lot of money in those disadvantaged communities, where there was even a building that’s called the Americanization School, where all the newly arrived immigrants in the 1800s were coming
in to be Americanized, and the building is a
Julia, great architect. – Morgan.
– Yes, Julia Morgan. It was a Julia Morgan building, and I said, “And we’re
gonna take that money “and we’re going to protect “that beautiful, historical building, “and we’re going to activate
the Americanization School “for social services and
we’re gonna build a park,” and it’s called the Cesar Chavez Park. And those are the moments, but you have to model behavior and you have to step
up when the opportunity or create the opportunity. – [Audience Member] Well,
thank you very much. (audience applauding) – I want to extend my thanks as well. That was extraordinary, and I think I expect touched
everyone in this room, and certainly touched me, your remarks and the thoughtfulness. There’s an expression many
of you have probably heard, a famous documentary about national parks as America’s greatest idea, and not just national,
and regional and local. We coupled that at our parks
conference four years ago as public education being
America’s other greatest idea, and the two of them
together are hard to beat. But they also speak to
education and nature as two places where people of
all backgrounds come together and share values and
find value in the future. And this is a great platform for us to think about how
we move forward together as a community, bringing
together the university and the parks and all of
the diversity of California. (lively music)

Reader Comments

  1. Have you considered not wasting college money on speakers that push political agendas and instead use it to further education for the students

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