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A Dose of (Climate) Reality

A blast of 109-degree air hit me as I exited the absurdly air conditioned Planet Hollywood casino on the Las Vegas Strip. It was June 10th, 2022, and Southern Nevada was having its hottest day of the year (thus far).

Ironically, I was there to learn, collaborate, and connect as part of the 2022 cohort of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps. So much for glitz, glamour, and excess – things were getting very real in the Nevada desert.

The Climate Reality Project is the organization founded by former Vice President Al Gore using proceeds from the unexpected success of 2006’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ film and accompanying book. Today, the organization is an international nonprofit on the leading edge of education and advocacy related to climate change, and the Leadership Corps program is intended to build the capacity of climate leaders and their networks for action.

Former Vice President Al Gore addressing the 500-person cohort.

Mr. Gore continues to anchor the organization in many ways, but over the course of two-and-a-half days we were able to get to know Climate Reality’s talented and diverse staff, as well as activists, scientists, and skilled communicators from across the Americas, including dozens of Indigenous leaders on the frontlines of climate action in their communities (with an emphasis on the American Southwest). I was particularly excited to connect with William J. Barber III, Climate Reality’s Director of Climate and Environmental Justice and the son of William Barber II, a well-known preacher and co-chair of the national Poor People’s Campaign, as well as Dr. Elena Krieger, Director of Research with PSE Energy (Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers for Healthy Energy) and a partner in community air protection projects in California.

There is strong connectivity with the work that Valley Vision has been doing for years to advocate for clean air policies, advance neighborhood-based air monitoring and emissions reduction efforts, and to support innovative projects like the California Mobility Center.

That being said, I was participating primarily as a member of the Global Shapers – Sacramento Hub, a local group affiliated with the World Economic Forum’s international network of over 14,000 young leaders across 448 city-based Hubs in 146 countries. The Sacramento Shapers have been working with Climate Reality locally on a water conservation project, conducting door-to-door outreach, distributing resources, and providing micro-grants to artists working on water conservation-related projects.

Our table getting to know one another.

Leadership Corps participants were treated to a full-length, up-to-date version of the famous ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ PowerPoint presentation on the first day of the training, as well as a shortened 10-minute version, both delivered by Mr. Gore. We also learned how best to communicate about climate change, and reflected on our own personal brand of climate activism taking into account our unique skills and backgrounds. We developed and practiced hands-on skills, and were presented with powerful information about the latest climate science, best practices, and technological advancements needed to support a global transition away from greenhouse gas use.

The training made very clear the linkage between the global climate crisis and the environmental racism faced by the communities of color most impacted by climate change. People of color in the US are exposed to up to 63% more pollution than they produce – while white people are exposed to 17% less. Fossil fuel air pollution contributed to nearly one in five premature deaths in 2018. Sometimes the climate crisis can feel nebulous to those who don’t reside in frontline communities, and this relationship is incredibly important to make evident when doing this work.

Matthew, Luis, Adrian, and Erick from the Global Shapers – Sacramento Hub.

Across the world-class speakers and hands-on trainings, there were several direct quotes that really resonated with me:

  • Shabd Singh: “How do you build people power? The answer is simple – one conversation at a time.”
  • Van Jones (not present): “The green economy should not just be about reclaiming throw-away stuff. It should be about reclaiming thrown-away communities.”
  • Alexa Aispuro Loaiza: “White allies can support communities of concern in the following way – lead by following.”
  • Tim Guinee: “Action is the antidote to despair about the climate crisis.”

All that being said – hope is critical if there is to be progress. Despair is just another form of denial. And if we truly care about our planet and its people, we will build the relationships, educate our communities, and advocate for solutions that benefit those most impacted. I’ll end this blog the same way that Mr. Gore closed the two-and-a-half-day training: “Political will is a sustainable resource.” Let’s do this!

Note: Masks were required at all times except during meals and while taking photos, as a COVID-19 precaution. Photos used as part of this blog do not reflect the in-person experience.

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance livability in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our Vantage Point email newsletter!


Adrian Rehn is a Valley Vision Project Leader overseeing the Cleaner Air Partnership, Sacramento Neighborhoods Activating on Air Quality, and Valley Vision’s flagship ‘Vantage Point’ email newsletter.

Cap-to-Cap Returns to D.C. – A First-Timer’s Experience

After over two years of a mostly virtual work environment, I didn’t quite know what to expect from the Sacramento Metro Chamber’s annual week-long Cap-to-Cap program. Not only would it be my first Cap-to-Cap experience, it would also be one of the first few times since March 2020 that I would be interacting with folks face-to-face, instead of Zoom square-to-Zoom square. In conversations with “veterans” (those who’ve attended prior Cap-to-Cap trips), I gathered that it was going to be a whirlwind week of events, meetings, and huddles — with few chances to catch a breath, and many opportunities to connect with regional and federal leaders.

To be sure, our region’s annual delegation to D.C. is a force – The Chamber’s Cap-to-Cap program has been happening nearly every year since 1970, representing the largest and longest-standing delegation of its kind. In that time, Cap-to-Cap has driven steady and consistent advocacy, ushering significant advances for business and community development, an inclusive economy, and a vibrant, healthy and connected region.

This year, Valley Vision staff played an active leadership role in Cap-to-Cap’s policy advancement. We Co-Chaired or served as Issue Experts on the Air Quality, Economic Development, and Food and Agriculture teams, and participated in the Workforce and Education team. On each team, we shaped policy papers and communicated critical regional issues to federal agencies and our elected officials, as well as continued building a network of relationships with federal legislative and agency representatives that continues throughout the year and brings added benefit to the region.

It was an honor to be able to champion our region side by side with local elected officials and jurisdictions, foundations and nonprofits, utilities, healthcare providers, industry representatives, among many others. And the running joke — that of course we all had to fly clear across the country to meet people from our own region — certainly has some truth to it. Because being in our nation’s capital, against the backdrop of Capitol Hill and the national monuments, with the common goal of elevating the needs and priorities of our region, brings us all together in an exceptionally meaningful way and gives us the opportunity to connect with folks who we don’t regularly cross paths with back home. 

The Cap-to-Cap Air Quality team meeting with Senator Feinstein’s staff on Future Mobility and Wildfire Resilience issues.

I’m especially grateful to have participated in the Cap-to-Cap program at such an important time for our region. New, unprecedented investments in regional economic recovery — financial commitments to infrastructure, economic, environmental, and community resilience through both state and federal government channels — present our region with the opportunity to rebuild and grow sustainably, with a commitment to community and equity at the center of it. These include the Community Economic Resilience Fund (“CERF”), a one-time use of State general funds that will distribute $600 million to regions across California to support inclusive and low carbon economic development; a $6 billion investment in California’s broadband infrastructure and enhancing internet access for unserved and underserved communities; and billions in American Rescue Plan Act funds distributed through the Economic Development Administration for advancing high-growth sector and workforce priorities, just to name a few. We’ve certainly got our work cut out for us, to ensure that our region makes the most of this once-in-a-generation opportunity. 

Championing our region to elevate its challenges and successes, breaking bread with regional change-makers, making my way around Capitol Hill — my first Cap-to-Cap experience was one for the books, and I’m already looking forward to the next one!

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance livability in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our Vantage Point email newsletter!


Isa Avanceña is Valley Vision’s Manager of Research and Policy.

Our Core Values in Action

With our mission of creating livable communities by advancing social equity, environmental sustainability, and economic prosperity for the region, Valley Vision has been a constant and steady presence in the area for 28 years.

Our work has always been values-centered, although we haven’t always clearly expressed those values for ourselves or others. Over the past several months, our staff and Board took an exercised approach to tease out the fundamental ideals that drive our work and articulate who we are. We are proud to share:

  • STEWARDSHIP: We exist to serve our communities to advance social equity, environmental sustainability, and economic prosperity.
  • COLLABORATION: We value building genuine connections that honor our communities and partners.
  • COURAGE: We are willing to do hard things.
  • PASSION: We are energized by our work and our communities.

Values are only words on paper without commitments and practices that support them. The following depicts our intentions to live out these values.

The values that we hold provide a foundation for the work we do and the way we do it. When we are supporting healthy food systems, developing equitable workforce pathways, or launching a new regional initiative for equitable and low carbon economic growth – these values should shine through. Our goal is to ensure that our values are apparent to all who work with us in the ways we engage and activate our work. We welcome your dialogue and feedback.

What are the values that anchor and guide you? Let’s support each other in activating values-driven leadership to foster equitable, sustainable, and prosperous communities.

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance livability in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our Vantage Point email newsletter!


Evan Schmidt is Valley Vision’s Chief Executive Officer.

Digital Inclusion Coalition Expands with New Platform

The last two years have proven the significance of digital inclusion to accessing opportunity and economic prosperity. Our nation is experiencing unprecedented investment, including the Affordable Connectivity Program through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – a $14.2 billion piece of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs act, and the biggest investment in broadband this country has ever seen. The Greater Sacramento region is well poised to garner and maximize investments in digital inclusion due in no small part to the dedicated contributions of the steering committee, working groups, and members of the Sacramento Coalition for Digital Inclusion (Coalition).

This effort started in the fall of 2018, inspired by a Brookings Institution report on the strengths and weaknesses of the Sacramento Capital region, and culminated in the formation of the Coalition.  Over the years, the work of the Coalition has brought together partnerships, thought leaders, and collaborative investment to address the digital inclusion needs of our region especially during the heightened needs of the pandemic.

A Year of Impact

In the last year, the Coalition has hosted eight full Coalition meetings and over 25 working group meetings in three key areas; Broadband Access & Adoption, Hardware Devices, and Digital Literacy/Digital Skills to build a framework and key strategies including:

  • Renaming, redesigning and taking over management of the Coalition website to provide easy access to resources and information
  • Operationalizing a digital inclusion portal to provide easy access to free resources for community members and the organizations supporting them

New Name & Expanded Region

The Coalition recently changed its name to the Capital Region Coalition for Digital Inclusion, reflecting an expanded service area and regional approach to creating more opportunities for digital equity.  This name change represents the expansion to serve a 9 county region supported by investment from the Capital Region’s four workforce boards, SMUD, AT & T and Union Bank, and magnifies opportunities to address both rural and urban digital equity barriers, and convene organizations from across the region to better inform, connect, and partner to promote community success.

New Digital Inclusion Portal Serving Nine Counties

Valley Vision is pleased to partner with mohuman, a non-profit connecting low-income communities with digital resources, to create the Capital Region Digital Inclusion Portal. Through this partnership, a streamlined platform has been created for the Capital Region, allowing community members and those serving them to easily search for resources – including free and low cost computers, internet services, digital skill building tools and training. Among other resources, the Digital Inclusion Portal connects individuals with training on Microsoft Office and Google Suite, as well as career search skills and more! The platform also allows organizations with digital inclusion resources to add their information to the Portal (after a review process) and claim their listings to provide additional description and detail. 

Nishal Mohan, Founder of mohuman, describes the work of the Coalition and the impact of the Portal: “The Capital Region and their digital inclusion coalition have been doing a fantastic job of regional coordination to serve digitally un and underserved individuals and families. Now with a personalized and easy to use portal, all of their free or low-cost digital inclusion services and resources are available to the public in an easy to use, accessible, expandable, and sustainable platform so that more people can move towards equity faster, more effectively, and at scale. Congratulations to Valley Vision and partners on bringing a powerful tool with the people for the people of the Capital Region!”

The Coalition’s goal is for the Portal to serve as a centralized source for community members and organizations to find and upload resources for computing devices, internet connectivity, and digital skill building. We need your assistance to create an expansive and thorough network of listings and are calling digital inclusion advocates to aid us in the following ways:

  1. Share the portal with community members and organizations to utilize for easy access to digital resources
  2. Add listings through the portal or email nghia.nguyen@valleyvision.org with information on digital inclusion organizations, programs, or online services that need to be included
  3. If you work at or manage an organization that provides digital inclusion resources, claim your listing, and make it your own!

With your help and assistance, we will continue the momentum to improve digital inclusion for our Capital Region’s current and future digital citizens. To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance a future-ready workforce in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our 21st Century Workforce email newsletter!


Caitlin Blockus is a Valley Vision Project Manager supporting initiatives within the 21st Century Workforce impact area.

Our Bright Future in 2022: Best Case Scenarios for the Sacramento Region

Valley Vision has a longstanding making “bold predictions for the new year.” This is my second new year as CEO in which I’ve held this responsibility and, I have to say, these years have not been at all predictable! 2021 did not go as anyone predicted, and 2022 has already gone sideways. So, what do I think we can expect for 2022? The unexpected – what else? Instead of dwelling on the uncertainties that we are all living with everyday, I’d like to envision our brightest future and best case scenarios for the Sacramento region in 2022. What can we achieve, even in the face of uncertain times?

Major Economic Recovery Dollars Invested in the Capital Region 

State and federal government recovery and infrastructure programs are paving the way for historic investments in economic recovery, workforce, broadband, transportation, climate resilience, and more. With so many competitive grant processes, our region has the opportunity to advance major big picture initiatives and win the dollars to fund them. Our best case scenario: we rise to the challenge as a region and bring in transformative change ushering in equitable recovery for our region. Learn more about and get involved in Valley Vision’s effort to secure Community Economic Resilience Funds for our region as a start.

The Capital Region is a National Leader in Low Carbon Economy and Climate Resilience 

Our region has some of the most ambitious emission reduction goals in the nation and the ingredients to make meaningful progress to foster clean innovation in advanced mobility, clean energy, electrification, and climate smart agriculture and overall climate adaptation. In our best case scenario, we advance ambitious and cohesive regional plans and initiatives that make our region more climate resilient and grow our innovative and vibrant clean economy. Check out economic goals identified in the Prosperity Strategy, SMUD’s ambitious 2030 Plan, the California Mobility Center, and SACOG’s Green Means Go initiative for a few examples of our regional commitment to a clean economy.

Sacramento Community Rallies to Address Homelessness 

Our unhoused population has increased throughout the pandemic and divisions of how to address housing and homelessness have overtaken our ability to advance reasonable solutions. In our best case scenario: Public agencies, elected officials, civic organizations, service providers, advocates, and residents work together to implement new programming, effectively site new facilities, and meaningfully reduce the number of people who are living unhoused and on the streets. Learn more about the City of Sacramento’s Response Plan.

The Sacramento Region Closes the Digital Divide 

There are significant dollars available this year to support the expansion of broadband infrastructure and digital inclusion, resulting in increased access to the Internet and opportunities to improve digital equity in communities throughout the region. In our best case scenario: we are able to capture those dollars; build our broadband infrastructure and address technology access; and create digital literacy and skills training for all who need it (in our best case scenario we win funding to support digital skills training through the Good Jobs Challenge). Learn more about the Infrastructure and Jobs Act and Valley Vision’s work on broadband access and managing the Sacramento Coalition to close the digital divide

The Comeback of Downtown Sacramento

In 2019, downtown Sacramento was building on the momentum of the Golden 1 Center, breaking ground with Railyards development and the new SAFE Credit Union Convention Center, and more. Then – the pandemic hit. In our best case scenario: downtown picks up where it left off and then some – building on existing assets and embodying a vibrant and equitable pandemic recovery as the economic hub of our region. We envision workers returning to offices, enhanced public transit, a vibrant arts and culture scene, robust tourism and events, and safe, clean, and humane conditions for all. Check out the work of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership

Are these headlines just pipe dreams? They are optimistic but I believe these scenarios are well within our grasp. We CAN usher in major investments this year and we DO have the ability to advance ambitious, innovative, equitable, and collaborative solutions. There are tremendous and historical investment opportunities, many expressed through the American Rescue Plan, the California 2022-2023 Budget proposal, the Jobs and Infrastructure Bill, and more. In addition to these programs, we have seen how communities have worked together to address the issues that most impact our communities throughout the pandemic, creating lightning-fast emergency response and adapting quickly to meet community needs. We can envision and enact a more equitable, sustainable, and prosperous future for our region. What will be required? A healthy civic culture and dialogue, the creation of shared agendas, a commitment to collaboration, and a willingness to learn and try new things.

Let 2022 be the year that – despite unpredictable conditions and continued challenges – our region finds ways to achieve our best case scenarios and create systems that are stronger, more adaptive, and more equitable, sustainable, and vibrant than ever before.

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance livability in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our Vantage Point email newsletter!


Evan Schmidt is Valley Vision’s Chief Executive Officer.