Building Resilient Communities with Bay Localize’s Corrine L. Van Hook

September 11, 2013

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good, and we’re so excited to have with us Corrine Van Hook. She’s the Communications and Outreach Manager for Bay Localize. Welcome to Green is Good, Corrine. CORRINE L. VAN HOOK: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Hey, we’re happy to have you and we’re happy to talk about Bay Localize but before we get into that, talk a little bit about your journey yourself, Corrine. How did you get here? Was this a dream of yours? Was this something that happened through just accident or a little bit of opportunity? How did you end up in this great position? CORRINE L. VAN HOOK: I think that you could say the stars kind of aligned. I mean it really kind of I guess that’s the best way to describe it. I grew up you know, my dad retired in 1989, so as a person of color, I grew up with limited resources. I was blessed to be able to get a scholarship to go to Cal, in which I studied political science and I was a Ideal Scholar, which they work with underrepresented, very exceptional academically, excellent youth at Cal because of the Prop 209 in Minority Enrollment so as a part of that, I really got engaged in youth work, social justice work, really kind of had my keen eye toward meeting the need and really being able to hone and excel as a community and as a person of color so after I graduated, a long time goal of mine and it still is to become an attorney and do this work but I ended up kind of taking a different direction. My first job out of college was The Rockwood Leadership Institute. They were doing leadership development with many organizations nationally and internationally and it was funny how I landed there because that was kind of also by relationship of behind the scenes after the fact of the scholarship that I had been working with and I had an organization after that in the beginning working with at risk male youth, services for probation youth to kind of help them get a fresh start. I actually ended up with Bay Localize through Rockwood. Rockwood connects a lot of people because they’re basically connecting people through the social justice realm across sectors so I came across some of the founders’ names and I was loving the equity and resilience work that’s going on here and I was really, really blessed to be able to come on board and that kind of basically the short and fast of what brought me there but I think it happened kind of organically and kind of the stars aligned a little bit. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s awesome, and I’m on your website right now, Bay Localize. For our listeners out there that want to join along, it’s a beautiful website. It’s BayLocalize.org. Tell us a little bit about Bay Localize. What is really the mission of Bay Localize and what are you up to over there? CORRINE L. VAN HOOK: Well, Bay Localize seeks to catalyze a movement toward a regional, national and even internationally actually because of our tools and resources that we offer for a self-reliant economy, one that strengthens all communities to combat social inequity, particularly low income communities of color because they tend to face impacts of climate change the worst and we inspire and support bay area residents as well as other residents because, like I said, our tools are scalable and available nationally and internationally. We want to help spread and instill equity in the communities so we can branch out to issues such as climate stability, which obviously, with these heat waves — I don’t know if you guys are experiencing them but we definitely have on the west coast here recently — rising energy costs, and the recession was limiting our region’s capacity to provide for everyone’s needs so we want to be able to live sustainably and we want to be able to do it equitably and we were able to achieve this through three of our main programs. Kind of we do our main focus work: Greener City, which is kind of you can touch it, you can feel it, really gets in the garden, teaches kids especially in urban areas that you can have your own garden. You can know where your food is coming from. You can grow your own food and here are some tools to do that. We have a local clean energy alliance and they’re one of our largest clean energy organizations working on clean energy issues and Communities for Resilience Tool Kit and that really gives us our international and national presence because it’s been downloaded in like 23 countries and over 30 states so far just as we released the 2.0 version and again, these resources, they’re available for free. We aren’t going to ask for a cost for people to be able to assess what their area is doing and how well it’s doing in terms of being able to meet needs of water, food, transportation, and to be able to kind of make room as a community and also locally and policy wise to do something about it. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, you’ve used your website for what the internet was developed for as a democratizing tool to spread the great word and to spread the mission and the information that you’ve developed into tool kits. CORRINE L. VAN HOOK: Yeah, we’re trying. We’re definitely trying. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Hey, that’s awesome. You mentioned at the top the word resilience. It’s not a word we hear a lot with regards to sustainability. Can you tie them together and explain with regards to Bay Localize what you mean about that, Corrine? CORRINE L. VAN HOOK: Well, resilience how we define it in our work is the ability to cope with stress and adversity and this type of thing, it exists at the level of the individual, the family, the household, and as a community as a whole and we found in our work and kind of how I mentioned before, low-income residents and communities of color, they have deep experience dealing with stress and adversity kind of do have a lot to teach about resilience because once again, having limited resources and being put at the front of climate change impact — and we’re talking about living in a flood-prone area, not having a reliable electricity system or enough energy, heat waves, for example, because of climate change and not having cooling systems and really housing that doesn’t have efficient ways of cooling and this impacts elderly. This impacts also children because of the air quality, for example. West Oakland, which is an area where they’re stationed by the port and the greenhouse gas emissions in the air really exacerbate respiratory problems. I actually just moved from Oakland and am still in the Bay Area but ever since I kind of moved, I’m noticing that both my and my children’s — I have two little ones and they were born with asthma and allergies so constantly on medication, constantly up at night — and since I moved, I’ve noticed a little bit of a difference so really, these communities, because they face it hardest, they have to be resilient in dealing with how to adapt to the impacts of climate change. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You know, you mentioned earlier all the great downloads in 23 countries, your toolkits and stuff. Talk a little bit about some of your other accomplishments at Bay Localize. CORRINE L. VAN HOOK: Yeah, certainly. Well, on September 18th, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors wrote in a decree to approve clean energy, Clean Power SF. It’s basically San Francisco’s version of the Community Choice Energy, which is rolling out this spring and it’s offering residents the option of purchasing 100% renewable energy, like I said, which is starting this spring and Bay Localize, our new clean energy alliance and the allies, of course, spent years and this was prior to my coming on, shaping the program and organizing support to really move that forward. Some of our other accomplishments recently is again the Communities for Resilience Tool Kit, which now, we were able to do the various commissions to prepare regional work van for community outreach and social equity that will be in the Bay Area adaptation planning because now they’re really kind of getting their eyes around climate change as you’ve seen with Obama’s speech and the recommendations were based on extensive consultation. We worked with 30 regional grassroots social justice and other community leaders by beginning with a survey and a workshop. The survey was done in depth online. It was offered both in English and Spanish for just a little bit more accessibility and voluntarily distributed by community and social service organizations so this was throughout nine counties in our area and so the responses are by more than 400 residents and we were able to host a workshop in January of this year with 30 regional justices, public health, and community engagement experts to be able to shape these proposals and again, this report and the findings of it is available again for download for free online. It’s BayLocalize.org/mappingoutafuture and what the survey and workshop found is, just to give you a quick snapshot, is that climate impact about which the survey responders expressed concern was the rising price of food and other basics. They also expressed concern about major storms and the impacts of that, drought, again, like I mentioned, poor air quality, and how crucial it is to partner with organizations in vulnerable communities so that you can get the most effective strategy for local government so that you’re able to engage in this planning. One of the really big things that they believed was really important was that community organizations can be funded for the time and effort they’re involved in when planning happens because they represent the highly vulnerable communities so this can mean job creation and really actual intentional investment in adaptation versus having a disconnect so you have the community groups and the regional agencies working together to come up with a plan that’s equitable in terms of climate adaptation. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Corrine, we have about three minutes left. Can you tell me why is the interest for this work that Bay Localize is doing, why does that seem to be growing both locally and nationally? CORRINE L. VAN HOOK: Because the impacts of climate change are real. People are noticing that the quality of their food is going down and it’s very expensive to even get food because of accessibility because crops, the way they grow, all of this is impacted by climate change. Over 5,000 people annually approximately are dying of asthma attacks and this is because of our air quality. We’re a fossil fuel dependent economy and it needs to get better. We need to diversify our clean energy and it’s really starting to affect communities and I would also add that people are giving more voice and there’s more attention toward it but we really, really kind of need to ramp up our effort to provide basic needs. JOHN SHEGERIAN: We have two minutes left. What’s your hope for Bay Localize and where do you think this is going to go the next five years? CORRINE L. VAN HOOK: I really hope that we’re just able to kind of continue to be our role of bridging community and helping folks in communities meet those basic needs and prepare themselves with a vengeance and I say this seriously for climate change and climate change impact because with what’s happened to the earth and kind of the strain that we’ve put on it, we’ve reached 400 particles in terms of the greenhouse gas emissions and we are still feeling that so really to be able to just equip us to sustain impact like Sandy, for example, which was heightened by climate change. That’s my hope is for us to be able to grow as an organization so that we can be more resourceful for folks just across the region, across the state, and internationally because again, a lot of the things that impact us, even though our needs are different, are basically the same as we address these concerns of climate. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Corrine, in the last minute or so, there’s a lot of listeners out there that want to get involved. Can you give them some way of entering into this process of volunteering or donating if they’re so excited to be involved with what you’re doing and your mission? CORRINE L. VAN HOOK: Yes, definitely. Our members are very near and dear to our work. They basically drive our work, starting at a donation. We do monthly donations. Every little bit helps. We are a small organization and we definitely work on the ground so BayLocalize.org. Go to donate. You can donate from our home page. Like I said, all donations are appreciated. Here locally, which only benefits the future locally, we have a clean energy and job campaign, which is basically reaching communities here in Oakland for real energy and job creation so all of that’s in our hands in the community so those are like the best ways to jump in right now. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Well, for our listeners out there that want to learn more or get involved, it’s www.baylocalize.org. Corrine Van Hook, you are a wonderful sustainability evangelist and truly living proof that green is good.