In Their Own Words

My work at OAEC:

Without the support of OAEC’s community of donors, foundations, and collaborators, our project could not succeed. My work is principally to strengthen and build relationships with the people and organizations with whom we can do transformative work. I love to tell the story of our work, which is complex and diverse, yet unified, but can initially feel impermeable and chaotic. Internally, I collaborate with and support our program staff to set and achieve our fundraising and organizational goals. I have the huge pleasure of working directly under OAEC’s Executive Director, Dave Henson, who so thoughtfully, strategically, and clearly organizes and guides our work together.

I’m a student of agro-ecology and resilient community design. In my spare time, these interests manifest in advocacy work around seed sovereignty and ecological agriculture and land management practices and work on our on-site permaculture demonstrations, gardens, and wildlands.

My background:

I was born and raised into the most loving and supportive family you could ask for. I grew up in the East Bay Area, surrounded by the cultural diversity of Oakland, Berkeley, and Alameda. Yet, my white, male, cisgender, upper-middle class upbringing within a stable home provided me much access and security. Recognizing and acknowledging this privilege, I’ve sought to direct my work, study, and actions towards a more just, tolerant, and non-violent earth community.

At UC Santa Barbara, I studied Environmental History – the relationships between people and the land over time. While in college, I split my time between school and guiding whitewater rafting trips on the rivers of California – six months in school and six months on the river. After graduating, I had the incredible opportunity to guide river expeditions internationally, spending four years guiding, organizing, and leading trips on some of the great rivers of the world – in Southern and Central Africa, Chilean Patagonia, the Indian Himalaya, and all over western North America.

As I lived and worked in many different communities all over the world, clear trends emerged: loss of cultural and biological diversity, inequitable distribution of wealth and resources, corrupt, oppressive, and unresponsive governance, lack of access to clean water and healthy food, rural to urban migration, degradation and global-orientation of local and regional economies, and erosion of traditional ecological and cultural knowledge and wisdom. I’ve landed at OAEC to further my study and dedicate my life-work to helping address the root causes of these many, yet inseparable crises.

Dave and Cooper copy2


Cooper River Bio pic5 lessons I’ve learned from my time with the river:

1) Be in the water that’s going where you want to go; 2) Navigate the flow, going with the flow can spell certain disaster; 3) Play the bounce; 4) Make friends with pandemonium; 5) Don’t hesitate – forward hard!

My passions:

I’ve been a drummer since I was a kid and have always felt music, and in many ways culture, through rhythm and pulse. I studied under Khalil Shaheed in the Oaktown Jazz Workshop Band and was the first chair drummer for the UC Santa Barbara Jazz Orchestra and Small Ensemble. There’s few things more grounding to me than a drum circle or an impromptu jam around a late night fire circle.

My favorite resiliency resource:  

Gandhi Ji’s experiments with Satyagraha – Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj or Home Rule

Why my work matters:

Here we are, floating around on this seemingly insignificant rock nestled within our solar system circling around a star. The scale is mind-boggling – there are perhaps hundreds of billions of star-centered solar systems just in our galaxy alone and there are perhaps thousands of billions of galaxies, while space continues to expand ad-infinitum. That we happen to exist on this particular planet – with water, atmosphere, oxygen, carbon-based life, etc. – and have the consciousness to experience it, its beauty and wonder, is remarkable. Yet, we are trashing our home. If nothing else, we should stop. At our very best, we must imagine a new way forward and work hard to bring our vision into reality. Our work at OAEC, of which I am incredibly humbled and honored to be a part of, is an attempt to re-right our relationships to life and land in its astonishing and necessary diversity – and enjoy it together in the process. What else matters?