From “Dirt Cheap to Soil Rich:” Regenerative Land Use in the Inland Empire’s “New Storage Economy”

The Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability (RRC) presented, From “Dirt Cheap to Soil Rich:” Regenerative Land Use in the Inland Empire’s “New Storage Economy” on May 5th, 2021. The conference title is a concept that seeks to re-imagine the land use and development narratives that exist in Southern California’s Inland Empire in which far too often communities are utilized as a sacrifice for convenience and progress elsewhere. COVID-19, the resulting economic crisis, and the looming climate crises have inspired a re-centering of essential and underserved communities and have challenged us to look holistically at solutions to unhealthy systems.

The convening, the first of the RRC’s Regenerative Agriculture department, brought together six local practitioners/organizations working in Inland Empire contexts who are articulating solutions to a fundamentally unsustainable system and who are working to imagine alternatives that center equity, community health, soil health, and viable economic relationships that do not come at the cost of human or environmental health. The convening asked participants to support the RRC and out co-presenters in beginning to define a paradigm shift for the Inland Empire toward a regenerative economy. In addition to the recording here a report will be published in late June, 2021 in order to share the findings of the event.

Conference Introduction

Opening of the conference which included a word on language justice and equity from our interpreters at Cooperativa Brujulas, a Land Acknowledgement from our guest Valerie Dobesh recognizing that we are on Indigenous land []. We then heard welcoming remarks from RRC director Susan Phillips and RRC Fellow Arthur Levine.

Breakout session 1

Convenience Economy in the Shopping Cart of America

In this session guests heard from Andrea Vidaurre who is an organizer with Peoples Collective for Environmental Justice. Andrea discussed how the IE has become one of the centers of storage and distribution of consumer goods and the impact this economic system has on communities. In the session participants are asked to consider how economic systems can benefit communities instead of bringing EJ crises.

From Food Apartheid to Black Food Sovereignty

In this breakout session we heard from Ali Anderson the founder and director of Feed Black Futures. We learn about the work that is being done to support Black mothers and caregivers through weekly healthy food distribution from BIPOC food producers. The session asks participants to consider what Black Food Sovereignty would look like.

Living by the Seasons

(**partial recording): In this breakout session participants heard from Valerie Dobesh who is a nutrition and health educator with Indian Health Inc. She shared her experiences and strategies of using healing gardens at schools, clinics, and other locations to work to educate people about a holistic perspective on health connecting to the four seasons. The session challenges participants to reconnect with natural cycles as a basis for learning and healing. **Tech difficulties resulted in only recording the second half of this presentation.

Breakout Session 2

What can RCDs do?

In this sessions Susie Kircshner from the Inland Empire Resource Conservation District discusses the work of local Resource Conservation District and how they can be a partner to other types of organizations from farmers, to community gardens, to schools. She also discusses the upcoming Sustainable Agriculture Land Conservation projects funded by CA DOC and asks the audience how RCDs can better serve the community.

Food systems as Economic Development

In this break out session Joyce Jong of the Riverside Food Systems Alliance and City of Riverside Economic Development department challenged participants to think of how food production can be a significant part of the economic future in the Inland Empire. Examples of how food systems can create jobs locally were shared. This session challenged participants to consider how agriculture can be a jobs creator and how investing in new farmers is crucial.

¿Como convertir basura en tierra fértil?

This breakout session lead by Maria Alonso of Huerta del Valle focused on the strategies that HDV community gardens and farms utilize to turn waste into healthy soil. Maria focused on the composting programs at HDV and other healthy soil practices including vermicomposting, composting, application of woodchips, and others.

Conference Conclusion

Report backs from the second breakout sessions with Joyce Jong (RFSA), Susie Kircshner (IERCD), and Maria Alonso (HDV). Final conversation with conference co-presenters and participants regarding what we learned and what can be done. Participants filled in a third JamBoard Exercise regarding goals and intentions for the IE in the next 10 years and looking at needs, assets, and projects that are already going on.

RRC is thrilled with the turnout and participation from the public in our first conference event related to regenerative land use. We are hopeful to continue working collaboratively with partners to develop the ideas behind “The New Storage Economy.” We are hoping to host a follow up event for this one early in 2022. Until then, please feel free to reach out to our staff with questions and comments and keep an eye out for our report on the convening coming late June 2021.

RRC staff can be contacted via: and

Redford Conservancy Lecture: Wildfire, Rumors, and Denial in the Trump Era

April 5 @ 4 – 5:15 p.m.

With Educator, Author, and Activist Laura Pulido

In fall 2020, the western US experienced unprecedented wildfires in response to global warming and management practices. In Oregon, numerous rural communities disseminated false rumors that Black Lives Matter activists and Antifa were deliberately setting the fires and preparing to loot vulnerable communities. In this talk, I explore why such rumors developed in Oregon and argue that they arose in response to deep racial and political anxieties amidst a deeply polarized country. Specifically, the rumors emanated from the Far Right’s rejection of multiracial democracy and movements for racial justice. Accordingly, the rumors embody two forms of denial: Climate denial and denial of structural racism in the US. The experience of Oregon illustrates the degree to which white supremacy can impact areas seemingly unrelated to race.

About the Speaker

Laura Pulido is the Collins Chair of Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies and Geography at the University of Oregon where she studies race, environmental justice, and cultural memory. She has written numerous books, including Environmentalism and Economic Justice: Two Chicano Struggles in the Southwest (University of Arizona, 1996); Black, Brown, Yellow, and Left: Radical Activism in Los Angeles (University of California, 2006); A People’s Guide to Los Angeles (with Laura Barraclough and Wendy Cheng) (University of California, 2012). She has received numerous honors, including the Presidential Achievement Award from the Association of American Geographers and Ford and Guggenheim fellowships.

The Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability, co-hosted by Sunrise Claremont, and sponsored by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Annual Sullivan Lecture: Climate Change and Southern California’s Water Justice Future

March 17, 2021

California has long struggled to provide safe and affordable drinking water to its low-income communities of color, but water insecurity is particularly acute in the arid south. As the state prepares for drought and other climate-driven disasters, how can concepts of climate change resilience and adaptation be folded into drinking water policy? What is the role of grassroots communities in defining adaptation strategies and policies? And most importantly, how can changes be made before the next climate disaster occurs?

Camille Pannu directs the Water Justice Clinic, a project of the Aoki Center for Critical Race and Nation Studies. The Water Justice Clinic partners with stakeholders to improve the sustainability of rural water systems; advocate for the inclusion of rural and low-income communities in water management decisions; and ensure that all Californians have access to safe, clean and affordable drinking water.

Presented by the Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability

Redford Conservancy Fall Lecture: “Environmental Racism and Climate Justice” with Julie Sze and Michael Méndez

September 30, 2020

The Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability presented its fall lecture featuring Julie Sze and Michael Méndez in conversation about their new books on September 30.

Authors, activists, and academics Michael Méndez (UCI) and Julie Sze (UC Davis) joined RRC Interim Director Susan Phillips for a conversation about the intersection of climate change and environmental justice.

Sze’s new book, Environmental Justice in a Moment of Danger (UC Press 2020), examines mobilizations and movements, from protests at Standing Rock to activism in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The book is the essential primer on environmental justice, packed with cautiously hopeful stories for the future.  All proceeds from this book are split between the Community Water Center and UPROSE, two environmental justice organizations.

Méndez’s new book, Climate Change from the Streets: How Conflict and Collaboration Strengthen the Environmental Justice Movement (Yale 2020), tells an urgent and timely story of the contentious politics of incorporating environmental justice into global climate change policy. Méndez contends that we must incorporate local knowledge, culture, and history into policymaking to fully address the global complexities of climate change and the real threats facing our local communities.

This event was sponsored by the Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability and the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation.

Michael Méndez is an assistant professor of environmental planning and policy at the University of California, Irvine. He previously served in California as a senior consultant, lobbyist, and gubernatorial appointee during the passage of the state’s internationally acclaimed climate change legislation.

Julie Sze is a Professor of American Studies at UC Davis. She is also the founding director of the Environmental Justice Project for UC Davis’ John Muir Institute for the Environment, and in that capacity is the Faculty Advisor for 25 Stories from the Central Valley.

The Struggle for Black Liberation

Historic and Contemporary Movements Against State-Sanctioned Violence

June 22, 2020


Robyn C. Spencer
Associate Professor of History, Lehman College

Omar Waslow, PhD
Assistant Professor of Politics, Princeton University

brontë velez
Creative Director, Lead to Life: A People’s Alchemy for

Hosted by the Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability at Pitzer College and the Justice Education Program with generous support from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

The event was moderated by Brinda Sarathy and Tyee Griffith.

Forever Chemicals: PFAS Contamination in California’s Drinking Water & Beyond

Annual Sullivan Lecture
February 14, 2020

In 2019, California state officials reported that chemicals widely used for decades in manufacturing and household goods had seeped into the public’s water supply. Known as “forever chemicals” or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, these common compounds have been detected in 86 water systems that serve up to 9 million Californians and are part of a public health crisis that is playing out nationally.

This panel will bring together government officials, public health advocates, and technical experts to discuss the breadth of the PFAS contamination crisis and steps towards protecting public health.


  • Andria Ventura, Clean Water Action
  • Barbara Morrissey, Washington State Department of Public Health
  • Peter O’Connell, Pall Water
  • Joaquin Esquivel, Chair, California State Water Resources Control Board

David N. Pellow: Critical Environmental Justice

David N. Pellow
University of California, Santa Barbara

Professor David N. Pellow is the Dehlsen and Department Chair of Environmental Studies and Director of the Global Environmental Justice Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara where he teaches courses on environmental and social justice, race/class/gender and environmental conflict, human-animal conflicts, sustainability and social change movements that confront our socio-environmental crises and social inequality.

Friday, October 11, 2019
4:15 p.m.

Benson Auditorium, Avery Hall
Pitzer College

The Dreamt Land: Chasing Dust and Water Across California

Annual Sullivan Lecture
Friday, February 15, 2019
3-5 p.m., Benson Auditorium, Pitzer College

Author and journalist Mark Arax will discuss his forthcoming book, The Dreamt Land: Dust and Water Across California. In the world of journalism, Arax stands out as a rarity. On one hand, he is a skilled investigative reporter who unearths secrets from the depths of shadow governments. On the other hand, he is a gifted writer whose feature stories and books are distinguished by the “poetry of his prose.”

A top graduate of Fresno State and Columbia University, Arax left the Los Angeles Times in 2007 after a public fight over censorship of his story on the Armenian Genocide. He has taught literary nonfiction at Claremont McKenna College and Fresno State University and served as a senior policy director for the California Senate Majority Leader.

Hahrie Han: People on the Move: Organizing for Climate Change

October 11, 2018 @ 4:15 pm – 5:45 pm

To create a humane, ecologically sustainable and socially-just world, we need a movement designed to equip ordinary people to participate in ways that are not only possible and probable, but also powerful. How do we engage people from diverse backgrounds in that kind of activity?

In this talk, Hahrie Han, Anton Vonk Professor of Political Science at UC Santa Barbara, will start by examining what a social movement is and why we need it to solve the power problems that underlie climate injustice. Then we will examine what we know — and don’t know — about how to organize constituencies in ways that build their power.

Climate Change, Climate Justice: Organizing in the Face of a Changing Planet

February 16, 2018 @ 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm

This symposium features three dynamic speakers who are deeply involved in climate science research and activism around climate justice. This event will engage students, parents, and the broader public around the challenges posed by the climate crisis while also envisioning creative ways forward to more hopeful and fossil free futures.

Dr. Geeta Persad, Climate Scientist, Stanford University

Dr. Getta Persad, Climate Scientist, Standford University

Dr. Persad uses numerical modeling to study climate change, impacts, and mitigation. In particular, she uses global climate models to study the role of anthropogenic aerosols—the solid and liquid particles emitted into the atmosphere whenever humans burn stuff—in regional and global climate change. She combines this scientific understanding with economic and policy analysis to explore how the shifting global landscape of these short-lived, but potent, human emissions will impact health, infrastructure, and mitigation decisions. Geeta is currently a Postdoctoral Research Scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University.

Ryan Camero, Climate Justice Artist-Activist

Ryan Camero, Climate Justice Artist-Activist

A climate culture-jammer, visual storytelling educator, and aspiring animator for social change, Ryan has devoted his organizing work to embodying rooted values of intersectional justice and anti-oppression. Camero’s activism originated from the needs of his hometown Stockton, California, to instill cross-cultural understanding and intergenerational harmony through the arts; fighting against apathy, illiteracy, systems perpetuating gang involvement and murder rates, poverty and lack of opportunity.

Since then, Ryan’s theory of change drove him to coalition building across the nonprofit sector- notable examples include working as a student facilitator for the California Student Sustainability Coalition, as a water rights campaigner with Restore the Delta, and as a storytelling educator for international arts-activist group, the Beehive Design Collective. He is a 2015 Brower Youth Award winner, the most prestigious award for young environmental leaders in the country, and represented California at COP21 – the international climate negotiations in Paris.

Nwamaka Agbo, New Economy Innovation Fellow, Movement Strategy Center

Nwakama Agbo, New Economy Innovation Fellow, Movement Strategy Center

Through a strategic partnership with Movement Strategy Center, Nwamaka Agbo currently serves as the Program Manager for Restore Oakland – a joint initiative of the Ella Baker Center and Restaurant Opportunity Centers United. As the Director of Programs at EcoDistricts, Nwamaka was responsible for leading Target Cities – a pilot program designed to support 11 innovative neighborhoods in 9 cities across North America in applying the EcoDistricts Global Protocol to help accelerate and achieve their district-scale sustainability goals.

Prior to that, Nwamaka worked at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights for over six years in a range of positions spanning from Policy Director, to Campaign Director and Deputy Director. During her tenure at the Ella Baker Center, Nwamaka helped to support the launch of the Oakland Green Jobs Corp and later went on to develop the organization’s Oakland-based Soul of the City civic engagement campaign.

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