Best of 2023

Inspiring Cases of Leading by Example

by | Dec 12, 2023

Elected officials and community leaders are given a platform like no other, with the power to influence large numbers of people. With climate change at the forefront of many Californian’s minds, it’s not surprising that community leaders may implore their supporters to make climate-friendly and equitable choices. But actions speak louder than words, which is why KneeDeep Times is committed to telling the stories of the noteworthy leaders who do more than talk the talk, but also walk the talk. From the Chief Heat Officer in LA to an urban farmer in Berkeley, here are five of our favorite stories highlighting climate leaders going the extra mile in 2023. 

1. LA Heat Officer Shares Lessons for Northern Neighbors

It’s been a hot summer but California in general has been spared. In fact, downtown Los Angeles set records for being cooler than ever-before recorded in June. So Marta Segura got a bit of a breather as she started her second year as the City of Los Angeles’ Chief Heat Officer. Segura talked to KneeDeep reporter Constance Sommer about how Los Angeles is addressing heat under her watch and why she believes even metro regions as relatively cool as the Bay Area should have someone in charge of addressing extreme weather. Photo: Marta Segura

Segura at bus shelter on Crenshaw Boulevard with graphics from her heat relief campaign. Photo: Marta Segura.

2. Women At Coastal Helm Walk the Talk

A record number of women are leading state efforts to help build resiliency along California’s coasts. In this podcast episode, host Ashleigh Papp interviews four agency leaders about climate change and sea level rise, as well as about the state’s commitment to equity, breaking through glass ceilings, and why it’s important to bring one’s whole self to work. Interviewees include: Amy Hutzel, California Coastal Conservancy; Jenn Eckerle, Ocean Protection Council; Jennifer Lucchesi, State Lands Commission; and Noaki Schwartz, Deputy for Equity and Environmental Justice for the California Natural Resources Agency. Photo: Jennifer Lucchesi

The State Lands Commission’s Jennifer Lucchesi (left) with colleague Sheri Pemberton (middle) and former CA State Controller Chair Betty Yee (right) on a federal offshore oil platform in 2022.

3. Growing a Rainbow in the Urban Dirt

Debbie Harris steps out of the offices of Urban Adamah, the urban farm she directs in Northwest Berkeley, and into the sun—a rare clear day between weeks of rain. The air smells of wet dirt and delicate jasmine flowers climbing a nearby trellis. Every so often, the wind carries a whiff of mashing grains from the brewery across the street. Harris is a farmer by trade—at 40, she’s worked on both rural and urban farms since her early 20s—but her role at Urban Adamah requires her to be “a horticulturalist, a plumber, a therapist, a teacher, an organizer.” Photo: Kate Raphael

Photo: Kate Raphael.

4. Oaklanders Leading on Climate

The 14 graduates of the inaugural 2021 Oakland Shoreline Leadership Academy have new skills to confront the rising tide head-on. “It’s completely changed how I look at the environment,” confesses Academy alum Shy Walker. In just over a year, the cohort has started to secure funding for their ideas, including a resilience hub in West Oakland, a sea level-resistant “sacred space” and cultural center, and shoreline field trips to get Oakland high schoolers engaged in climate justice. Photo: SFBCDC

drawing of small houses in Oakland

5. SF Hires Fast-Charger to Direct Environment Department

Every month, the board members of San Francisco’s Commission on the Environment convene at City Hall, where they offer advice and shape policy for the city’s Environment Department.  Around the two hour mark of last month’s meeting, a drowsiness had settled over most of the room. In contrast, Tyrone Jue, the new Director for the Department of Environment, remained alert and focused.  Jue aims to help his city achieve net zero emissions by 2040. Photo: SF Environment

Jue (right) during Reimagining San Francisco event in September 2023.
Beyond the front-lawn with Benicia’s Greyhawk Grove. Photo: Aleta George.

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