Learning By Doing: How One Concerned Citizen Deepened His Impact

Bryan Beck is an accomplished computer engineer who has always been passionate about helping the environment. His first foray into local environmental advocacy also happened to be his introduction to Green Foothills: when the Cargill company was fighting to build 12,000 homes on salt ponds along the bayshore in Bryan’s hometown of Redwood City. Bryan and his wife Kaia joined Green Foothills in its fight to protect and restore what could become important wetland habitat.

Bryan was impressed by what he learned about Green Foothills during that successful battle to save the Redwood City shoreline. “I noticed the difference between places like Los Altos and the rest of the Bay Area compared to areas such as Los Angeles and realized that so much of the green space in the peninsula had been protected by Green Foothills”

He eventually joined the Green Foothills Board of Directors in 2013, and joined the Green Foothills Leadership Program 2016 cohort, which gave him more in-depth insight into what advocacy entails. He thinks back to an exercise where the class assumed different roles in a hypothetical city council meeting that revolved around a proposal to develop a sensitive creek habitat. Seeing peers argue for and against the development from a wide range of viewpoints, from business to housing, to school safety, taught him “how someone else thinks, how to address their concerns, or even how to oppose their point more effectively.” He was also able to learn about how to present comments effectively in public meetings, which was one of the things that had initially drawn him to Green Foothills.  He had seen Alice Kaufman, Green Foothills’ Legislative Advocacy Director, give effective public comments throughout the Cargill campaign.“I was very impressed by how well-prepared her comments always were. I [now] understand more fully how much research and preparation it takes to be an effective advocate.”

His tenure on the Board of Directors ended in 2021, but Bryan continues to be involved with Green Foothills as a volunteer. He is now part of the Leadership Program Advisory Committee, supporting curriculum review, cohort recruitment, leadership placement of graduates, mentorship for the current cohort, and alumni reunions.

Bryan has been able to use his computer programming expertise to advance environmental causes by developing a digital archive of Green Foothills’ work, in addition to supporting the development of a mapping project that depicts the extent of the organization’s impact on open space protection. He is looking for additional ways to use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to support environmental protection efforts.

Bryan supports Green Foothills in order to ensure that local nature always has an advocate, given that successful environmental campaigns often are the culmination of decades of work.  He reminisces about a letter he found from 1973, written in German and addressed to the Hannover City Hall (in Germany), asking for advice on a then-active campaign to protect a parcel of land in Coyote Valley.  “I didn’t know conservation could take so long!” Bryan says, noting that work to protect Coyote Valley continues to this day.

Thank you, Bryan, for joining Green Foothills as part of your advocacy journey and for your continued support of the Leadership Program!

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