I was born here. Raised by rocky beaches, winter deserts, and towering trees. I’ve swam in fields of golden poppies, danced in streams with golden trout, looked down from the top of our tallest mountain to the depths of our driest desert, and choked on the smoke of fires and the exhaust of trucks. I’ve watched the seeds I’ve planted sometimes grow, but also get washed away, or wither and die.

I’ve been lost in dry chaparral canyons, found in the shade of afternoon oaks, and then lost again in the sights and smells of hot city streets. I fell in love with our people, from all over the world, who have come to share the majesty and beauty of this special place. I have felt the shift, the cracks forming in the memory of what was and the reality of what now is. And yet I have a dream. Perhaps you have one too.

A California dream, that kind where we believe almost anything is possible. A dream where we accept people for who they are and realize that we can go further if we go together. A dream where we finally find more balance, balance with nature, and at the same time, with ourselves. And yet I am a bit of a nerd. Perhaps you are too.

Nerds believe in science. In learning. In finding tangible ways to make a difference. In leveraging that uniquely human gift of curiosity and imagination to shape the world around us. And that’s what led me to buildings. Perhaps you’re in one right now.

Everything comes home in a building, somewhere, somehow. Through them, we can impact issues around energy, water, waste, and most importantly health. But we can’t have health without people. Green building people who have been doing this work for years, decades even, consistently trying to figure out how to do even more. Perhaps you are one right now. Perhaps you are just getting started. That’s okay too.

Multiple chapters attended Advocacy Day in Sacramento, a week after we
announced USGBC California.

We spend more than 90% of our time in buildings that account for more than 40% of our greenhouse gas emissions. We know how to reduce those impacts, we know how to leverage our built environment to create more connection to nature, to build a bridge to a cleaner future. There is so much good work to be done that is just within our grasp if we keep reaching. And that work means jobs, those jobs improving our environment mean reduced physical and mental health impacts, and this makes our communities more resilient and more sustainable. It could just be this crazy, viscous positive cycle. Perhaps.

And so here is my dream. A dream for California. A dream for people of color, people not of color, people living next to highways or next to warehouses, people everywhere to feel empowered whether they are wielding a mop, a leaf blower, a hammer, or a keyboard. A dream where we have clean air to breathe, plants to touch, renewable energy and clear water when we need it for you, or your friend, or that person you will never even meet or know who also calls this place home. Perhaps you want those things too.

So I’m taking a chance on you. A chance on us. A chance on thousands of advocates, nerds, and people just like you across our beautiful, complicated state who occupy spaces and who care, coming together to improve the places where we live, learn, work, and play. I’m running down that California dream because there’s no better place than here to get it done if we’re gonna do it. But this is an impossible task for me alone and this is an impossible task for a dedicated group of concerned architects and engineers. But just maybe this is not an impossible task if we do it together, if we build a bigger tent, and invite everyone who gives a damn to come inside too. There is no better time than now and I hope I’ll see you when we get there. Perhaps. 

Announcement: USGBC California Launches to Unify the California Green Building Movement

About the Author

Ben Stapleton is the executive director for USGBC California (USGBC-CA). A native Angeleno, Ben is a recognized sustainability leader who brings a creative mind and consultative approach to a wide range of projects with a focus on building teams and designing programs to deliver impactful results. His current work is based on coordinating an ecosystem leveraging the built environment as the entry point and connective fabric to help create a more sustainable society for all. With a seasoned real estate and energy efficiency advisor background, he previously helped launch the La Kretz Innovation Campus in Downtown LA and lead operations and finance for major program initiatives for the LA Clean Tech Incubator (LACI). He is also the recipient of JLL’s distinctive Da Vinci Award for innovation and the Los Angeles Business Council’s Community Impact Award.

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