The Origin of Bay Localize

SavetheDate600x408Bright and early Saturday morning, my animator Allah and I made our way to Bay Localize’s ten year anniversary celebration. After several beautiful acapella songs by Desiree and a benediction by Rafael Jesus Gonzales backed by Gera Marin, Aaron Lehmer and I kicked off the program by sharing an abbreviated story of origin of Bay Localize. We had only 5 minutes. Below is a more complete version of the story.

My 13 year old daughter Melia was my inspiration. When Melia was 2 weeks old, her  mother laid her on my chest. In the back of my mind, I was still wondering how I would relate to a newborn. I still saw myself as that guy – when a mother handed me the baby, within seconds the baby squirm and squeal back to mother. Melia inched her head up into the crook of neck. She felt like the sweetest puppy, nuzzling me. Energy went through my entire body and I knew at that moment that this was the most important relationship of my life. And that when she is a young adult, I need to be able to look her in the eyes and tell her I did everything to make this a better place. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  

This was my Call to Transformation, which propelled me on 13 year Awakening Journey that has brought me

When Melia was a year old, my friend Jerome invited me to a film called the Unanswered Questions of 9-11. Mike Ruppert was on the panel after the film and he spoke about something called “Peak Oil.” Several months later, Ruppert was in town for an event with Richard Heinberg and a Brit named Julian Darley. I attended and was compelled to answer Darley’s plea for volunteer support for his new initiative Post Carbon Institute.

2016-04-24 21.15.08Within months, I was helping on all aspects of building Post Carbon and Darley’s multimedia news outlet, Global Public Media, from website, marketing, interviewing, strategy, and fundraising. Soon, I joined Julian Darley and his wife Celine on the board of Directors. I ultimately co-authored a book, cultivated the first major donor, and built a local Post Carbon group in the Bay Area.

But Melia’s mom was not happy with having 10-15 strangers in our home for the local group meetings, so I moved the meetings to the Rockridge library. Ingrid Severson, Bay Localize’s first project manager, came to meetings as did Victor Douglas, who has supported Bay Localize in many capacities over the years.

One of my biggest impact was the national campaign for screenings of the film the End of Suburbia. I was also talking up folks and setting up and supporting screenings in the Bay Area. I kept running into Aaron Lehmer.

Aaron jumped in. It’s all your fault I got involved with Bay Localize. I working at Circle of Life, happily booking events for Julia Butterfly Hill, and then Dave came along, insisting that our oil-soaked economy was what I should be worried about. Dave’s work was eye-opening: I knew we were cooking the climate with our fossil fuel addiction, but I hadn’t realized how almost every aspect of our economy — from world trade, to agriculture, to construction, to transportation — was rigged to keep us hooked on the dino juice. And worse, how incredibly unprepared we were to move beyond it.

Dave and I spent many hours working out a plan for how we could move to Bay Area to become more self-reliant, less oil-dependent, and more socially just. Eventually, I got hired on with Dave to join Post Carbon, where our fledgling Bay Area Relocalize project finally had our first sponsor. So we organized up a storm: bringing together a broad circle of activists, assembling a powerful coalition of dozens or organizations, and eventually, hosting a major kickoff event at Laney College with a packed house on a rainy night.

We got canned the next day despite the fact that Julian was one of the featured speakers at our unequivocally successful debut event. Apparently, Julian And Celine had decided to refocus on globally and drop the idea of  Bay Area focused project well before the event. Thankfully, they waited until after the event.      

Initially, it was a time of great confusion and soul searching. Especially for me, as Melia’s mother had decided to end the marriage just several weeks earlier. Nevertheless, I knew we were doing something important, given the response we were getting. But we had no funds to move forward with all the plans to which we had just committed at the event.

Soon thereafter, we secured some angel funding, and I realized that it was all for the best.  A huge blessing to be able to pursue the world without having to deal with the Darleys. The funding came from a Post Carbon donor that I had cultivated to be their first major funder. Bless him. He got it from the start.

The first thing Bay Localize did was mobilize a handful of organizations to produce a white paper that asserted resilience as an important measure of the health of a community and that localization of energy, food, water is the way to increase resilience. Our next project was the development of the Use Your Roof Guidebook, led by Ingrid in conjunction with Brian Holland of Design, Community. and the Environment and others. My highlight was beating back the dastardly Proposition 16 despite the fact that the opposition outspent us 100-1. It was said to be a Dave and Goliath battle.

When Melia was five or six, I noticed that I was speaking to the same people over and over. Not literally the same people, figuratively. I wanted to reach more young people, people of color, and mainstream thinkers.  I started noticing the word story  everywhere i looked. I discovered that story and music were ubiquitous in major social movements across the planet from Apartheid to Obama. It came to me that we needed to incorporate story, entertainment and music into the work.

I dove deep into the world of story. I learned that stories have been the most effective technology for passing on traditions, values, and beliefs since the beginning of language. The mind stores information in the form of stories. People learn and remember best through story. Stories create and strengthen neural pathways in our mind, thereby influencing how we feel, think, and behave. Stories bring communities, tribes, and countries together. Corporations were increasingly using story to create lifelong relationships with customers. Do gooder organizations needed to as well.

This was the beginning of my love affair with story.

Aaron further notes, “during its early years, the Bay Localize team made many other key accomplishments: releasing the Community Resilience Toolkit (written by co-founder Kirsten Schwind), which has been used by organizers in 46 states and 30 countries! Our Use Your Roof program helped build an inspiring cluster of rooftop and community gardens in partnership with Bay Area schools and community groups. And our Green Your City program teamed up with local allies to break down barriers to food growing and sharing in SF and Oakland, and launched a pioneering composting program at Laney College.

Aaron then introduced the awesome co-directors, Colin Miller and Corrine Van Hook. They proceeded do the big reveal. Bay Localize has changed its name to Rooted in Resilience.