We are pleased to announce our 18th annual Nature’s Inspiration will be held virtually on Sunday, October 3rd from 5:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. This annual celebration brings our community together to recognize the achievements of those who have dedicated their lives to protecting the natural environment and connecting people to the outdoors.
Our Nature’s Inspiration honorees this year are two individuals who have dedicated their lives to public service, community, and the environment: Blanca Alvarado and Rod Diridon, Sr. For more than half a century, these two former Santa Clara County Supervisors have dared to blaze trails that have profoundly shaped the county’s landscape leaving an enduring legacy of environmental protection and stewardship.
The power of our community and the local natural landscapes, farmlands, and parks we protect together are reasons to celebrate—even more so after the past year. Join this celebration and enjoy live musical performances from famed musicians and guest appearances by prominent local leaders. Our sponsor benefits are crafted to help you enjoy the event from home.
Our 2021 Honorees
A coal miner’s daughter born in Cokedale, Colorado, Blanca’s family moved to California with the hope of a better life. As a young adult, she co-hosted the first Spanish-English bilingual radio program in Northern California where she emphasized the need for the Latinx community to get involved in civic affairs and brought attention to the plight of Valley laborers.
In 1980 – after raising five children and working for the County Department of Social Services and the Center for Employment Training – Blanca entered the world of public service. A lifelong trailblazer breaking the glass ceiling for women and Latinx leaders, Blanca Alvarado was the first Latina elected to the San Jose City Council in 1980 representing East San Jose in the city’s first district election. During her 14 years on the Council, she served two terms as the city’s first Latina vice mayor and worked to address the disproportionate investment in other parts of the city. From 1995 through 2008, she served on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and was the first Latina to serve as the Board’s chairperson.
Blanca is a passionate champion of the arts and spearheaded the founding of the Mexican Heritage Plaza. She worked to reduce disproportionate representation in the juvenile detention system and partnered with Cesar Chavez to create the Community Services Organization. She later championed changing the name of San Jose’s Plaza Park to Plaza de Cesar E. Chavez and creating a County holiday in Chavez’s honor. She served on many regional bodies, including Chairing the Valley Transportation Authority.
Blanca has been a lifelong conservationist and environmentalist and has used her voice and influence to secure funding for the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority. She chaired multiple campaigns in support of the County Parks Charter Fund, secured funding for trails and open space in East San Jose and throughout the County, protected Santa Clara County’s greenbelt; supported the Habitat Conservation Plan; served for 14-years on LAFCO and was a reliable board member vote to promote compact, efficient urban development while preserving the unincorporated lands for prime agriculture and open space; and served as chair of the Riparian Values Education Roundtable.
Celebrating her 90th birthday this year, she has not slowed down. She is a vocal advocate for protecting Juristac, sacred lands for the Amah Mutsun Tribe and a critical wildlife corridor southwest of Gilroy. And in 2018 she launched the environmental justice campaign to close Reid Hillview, a small airport in East San Jose that has impacted residents and students for decades with airborne lead poisoning, pollution, and noise. Her vision, and that of much of the community, is for this 180-acre site to become much-needed affordable housing, social and educational services and include wildlife habitat and a nature park.
She has received many honors and recognitions. In 2005, she was awarded the Ohtli Award by the government of Mexico and was also recognized in the United States House of Representatives for her achievements.
Green Foothills is pleased to honor Blanca Alvarado, La Madrina of East San Jose.
Rod Diridon, Sr.
After a BS and MSBA at SJSU and two Vietnam combat tours as a naval officer, Rod Diridon Sr. began his political career in 1971 when elected the youngest-ever Saratoga City Councilmember. From 1975 to 1995, he served five terms, six times as chair of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and Transit Board.
A lifelong environmental champion, in 1978 Rod led three other Supervisors abruptly halting the Valley’s rampant sprawl by freezing subdivisions outside city urban service areas. He and Supervisors McCorquodale and Steinberg faced a vicious, developer-led recall and won with environmental support. He co-chaired the early 1970s County Parks Charter Fund and championed the purchase of an open space buffer around the urban areas. He is most proud of increasing the County parks from 800 to over 43,000 acres. He helped negotiate legislation authorizing and campaigned for the Valley’s Open Space Authority. In 1979, he presided over the development of the Nation’s first Integrated Environmental Management Plan and Regional Transportation Master Plan as President of the Association of Bay Area Governments.
Rod has focused his leadership on countless issues including climate, the environment, arts and culture, higher education, community organizations, and philanthropy. Perhaps of most note is his leadership for public transportation, chairing over 100 transportation and sustainability programs at the international to the local level. Upon his retirement from public office, the San Jose Diridon Station was dedicated in his honor.
Rod chaired the County’s League of Conservation Voters for almost 20 years, building the organization into a major political force that educates and endorses candidates for local office. He is a Life and Muir Society member of the Sierra Club, chairs the Silicon Valley Ethics Roundtable, and the regional Rotary Climate Action Council. He is a vocal advocate for climate action internationally and actively supports the local campaigns to protect Juristac, save Coyote Valley, and close the Reid-Hillview Airport.
Rod is proud of his daughter, counselor and composer/performer Mary “Diri” Diridon, and her children Allie and Aaron; and his son Rod Jr., an Apple Senior Manager, and daughter-in-law Sabra Diridon, a San Jose State University Senior Development Director, and their twins Avery and Roddy. Rod and his wife Dr. Gloria Duffy, President and CEO at the Commonwealth Club, are ridiculously happy in their Santa Clara home with 32 fruit trees, a home garden, 34 solar panels, and 2 electric cars. Along with their grandchildren, the family strives diligently to sustain a wonderful future for the Earth.
Green Foothills is pleased to honor Rod Diridon, Sr., the “godfather” of transit in Silicon Valley.
Our Host Committee is an integral part of the production of Nature’s Inspiration. Special thanks to our Host Committee for their many contributions and willingness to connect with other community leaders who have the resources to help assure our Nature’s Inspiration 2021 is a success. Let us know if you are interested in joining by emailing Justyne Schnupp at [email protected].
Valentin has served as Chair of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band since 2003, and the President of the Amah Mutsun Land Trust since its inception. Chairman Lopez is a Native American Advisor to the University of California, Office of the President on issues related to repatriation. He is also a Native American Advisor to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology. Chairman Lopez has dedicated himself to restoring tribal indigenous knowledge and ensuring Amah Mutsun history is accurately told. Since 2017, we have worked in solidarity with Val and the Amah Mutsun tribe to protect Juristac, a sacred site and major wildlife corridor in Santa Clara County, from a sand and gravel mine.
Joseph W. Cotchett
Joe has been a champion for justice during his 50+ year legal career and a passionate supporter of the environment and specifically the Bay and San Mateo Coast. As founder and senior partner of Cotchett, Pitre, & McCarthy LLP, he has built his legal career representing the underdog against powerful interests as well as providing generous pro bono work. Named one of the 100 most influential attorneys in the United States for almost two decades, Joe is an honoree and member of the national Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame in Philadelphia and the State Bar of California’s Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame.
Rue is the CEO and Founder of Outdoor Afro. Rue has passionately led Outdoor Afro, a national nonprofit organization, since it began as a blog in 2009. With more than 70 leaders in 30 states and 20,000 people in the network, Outdoor Afro supports African American community leadership in open space issues and addresses the need for greater diversity in the outdoors. Rue’s many accolades include being invited to the White House to participate in the “2010 America’s Great Outdoors Conference”, and subsequently taking part in a think tank to inform the launch of the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” initiative. In 2012 and 2016, she was listed in “The Root 100” as one of the most influential African Americans in the country. Rue has served as a California State Parks Commissioner since 2014.
Steve is the retired Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District General Manager. Before his recent retirement, Steve Abbors spent a decade leading Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (Midpen)’s extraordinary work to promote open space preservation and public restoration. Founded in 1972, Midpen has permanently protected more than 63,000 acres of public land and manages 26 open space preserves in our region. Career highlights include completing a 30-year Vision Plan with extensive public support resulting in $300 million for land acquisition, restoration and public access through Measure AA. He’s most proud of reconnecting the Amah Mutsun Tribal band to their ancestral lands on Mount Umunhum through a permanent conservation easement, and opening Mount Umunhum to the public.
Joan is a musical force of nature, American folk singer, songwriter, musician and activist who has displayed a lifelong commitment to environmental and social justice activism. Joan has performed her music for over 55 years with over 30 albums in six languages. She began her career in 1960 with immediate success. Her first three albums, Joan Baez, Joan Baez, Vol. 2, and Joan Baez in Concert all achieved gold record status and stayed on the Billboard and other record album charts for two years. Songs of acclaim include ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ and ‘Diamonds and Rust.’ Other noteworthy accolades include introducing the world to Bob Dylan in her early tours, marching on the front lines of the Civil Rights movement with Martin Luther King, Jr., striking for fair wages in the fields with Cesar Chavez, singing on the first Amnesty International tour, and bringing the Free Speech Movement into the spotlight at Berkeley. On Earth Day 1999, Joan and Bonnie Raitt honored environmental activist Julia Butterfly Hill with Raitt’s Arthur M. Sohcot Award on her 180-ft high redwood treetop platform where Hill camped to protect ancient redwoods in the Headwaters Forest from logging. Lennie Roberts and Committee for Green Foothills worked alongside Joan and dozens of her neighbors in 2001 to defeat a massive development proposal on the 92-acre Lawler Ranch property in Woodside. Once again Joan joined Lennie and Committee for Green Foothills worked on a collaboration with The Horse Park at Woodside to restore eroding hillsides and adopt land restoration and wildlife-friendly management techniques. In 2007, Joan received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In the end of 2016, she joined Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, where at least 200 tribes gathered to oppose the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Most recently, Joan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 7, 2017.
Check Out The 2020 Nature’s Inspiration Recording
On Sunday, September 27 at our 18th annual Nature’s Inspiration, we honored the incredible Valentin Lopez, the highly respected Chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band for his exemplary leadership of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. We enjoyed musical performances from famed musicians Raul Pacheco and Ozomatli, Neil Young, and indigenous vocalist Calina Lawrence. Prominent local leaders joined us including Muwekma Ohlone Tribes of the San Francisco Bay Area Chairwoman Charlene Nijmeh and Vice Chairwoman Monica Arellano, and our Master of Ceremonies County Supervisor Joe Simitian. A portion of the event proceeds were donated to the Amah Mutsun Land Trust.