Commonwise

We’re accelerating landscape and community resilience, starting with Sierra Nevada forests.

Land could reverse global warming.

The International Panel on Climate Change tells us we have 12 years to halt emissions and we have until the year 2100 to remove 1000 gigatons of CO2 from the atmosphere. Land naturally stores huge amounts of carbon but, through mismanagement, we’ve damaged the ability of forests, wetlands and agricultural soil to do their jobs. Restoring land could actually restore the climate simply through…well…photosynthesis.

Land restoration is already happening. It’s time to do it at scale.

Why Sierra Nevada forests first?

Forests impact everything downstream and downwind. Sierra Nevada forests store vast amounts of carbon, deliver California’s water, filter its air, and provide critical habitat for humans and other species. 

Forests in the Sierra Nevada and northern coast of California can store as much carbon as tropical rainforests, however, human management of this land has been short-sighted. 200 years of clear cutting and 130 years of fire suppression has resulted in dangerously overgrown forests. In addition, 1/3 less precipitation and an average temperature increase of three degrees since 1980 has sucked California dry. These compounding factors have come to roost in a new form of catastrophic wildfire which could convert the vast majority of California forests to shrub and grass land within a few decades**. The devastation to urban and agricultural water supplies, air quality, the climate, biodiversity, recreation, and people’s lives is beyond imagination but a brutal reality.

The majority of state, federal, and municipal resources are spent fighting fire vs. preventing by building long-term resilience.

From Disaster to Resilience

The goal is to make forests and communities across rural California more resilient to the impacts of catastrophic wildfire which will, in turn, decrease the impacts of wildfire on agricultural lands and urban areas downstream and down wind.

We know what to do. Let’s get it done.

Photo credit: John Battles, UC Berkeley

Commonwise is taking a collaborative, systems approach to restoring the resilience of California and, eventually, western temperate forests. Ultimately, our goal is to flip western landscapes back to being the powerful carbon sinks they once were. Programs will launch in summer 2019.

Illuminate
Amplify

Making sense of complexity, clarifying what needs to be done, partnering with others to take on crucial challenges and opportunities in ways that drive collective progress.

Through art, immersive experiences, and inspiring educational content, creating a new common understanding of what’s at stake and what we can do about it.

Leadership

Allison Wolff

CEO

Allison’s background is in narrative, brand, and strategy building. Over the last 16 years, she specialized in business as a force for good. Allison spent her early career launching brands internationally, then built the Netflix brand and digital experience. She then went to SYPartners and worked with leaders of global companies on vision and culture change initiatives. In 2004, growing increasingly concerned about humanity and the planet’s future, she began working with well-intended companies and family offices on defining their bigger purpose and then developed and executed social impact and sustainability programs,experiences, and campaigns to bring purpose to life. Over her career, Allison has worked with the leadership teams at Google, eBay, Facebook, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Omidyar Network, Patagonia, Nike, HP, Drawdown, GlobalGiving, Cradle to Cradle, and Conservation International.

Teal Brown Zimring

Director of policy and programs

Teal’s background is in multi-stakeholder partnerships, strategic philanthropy, policy advocacy and non-profit management. Teal has over a decade of experience working with non-profit and corporate entities to build funds and open new lines of business to tackle social challenges and leverage public and private funding. Teal designed philanthropic strategies and built and managed teams to execute these strategies for Fortune 500 executives, global NGO leaders, former elected officials and celebrities interested in leveraging their visibility/platforms for positive impact. As part of this work, Teal led global learning trips for corporate executives and congressional delegations. Teal has worked with ADS Global Solutions, Nike; the Aspen Institute, Schultz Family Foundation, and others. Prior to Galvanize, Teal was the Director of the Aspen Institute’s Society of Fellows in San Francisco, and from 2005-2008 was a founding team member at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

Advisors & Collaborators

Malcolm North

USFS and UC Davis | forest ecology and wildfire expert

Malcolm North is a research forest ecologist with the USDA Forest Service PSW Research Station and UC Davis’ John Muir Institute of the Environment. Malcolm is one of the leading thinkers in California and the West on forest health and wildfire and has been a featured speaker in events and in multiple documentary films on megafire. He is often quoted in the New York Times, LA Times, and other media coverage of forest resilience and wildfire.

Saul Gomez

Resource Legacy Fund | climate adaptation and resilience leader

Saúl Acosta Gómez develops and implements programs related to climate adaptation and resilience, climate change, renewable energy, land use, and transportation. Before joining Resources Legacy Fund, he served as deputy cabinet secretary to Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., advising and representing the governor on natural resources issues. He previously served as deputy secretary for energy and special assistant for Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources at the California Natural Resources Agency. Saúl also served as executive director of the California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority, advisor to California Energy Commissioner Carl J. Peterman, and director of advocacy at the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies. He has served on the legislative staff of members of the California Assembly and Senate. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of California Davis and a Master of Public Administration degree from Columbia University.

Andrew Zolli

Planet Labs | global innovation, foresight, social change & resilience thought leader

Andrew Zolli oversees the humanitarian and sustainable development Global Impact portfolio of Planet, a breakthrough geospatial imaging organization that has deployed the largest constellation of Earth-observing satellites in history. Together, this system images the entire surface of the Earth every day, in high resolution. The resulting data has transformational value for addressing a host of global challenges, including monitoring peace and conflict, ensuring human rights, predicting food insecurity, assessing climate change, accelerating disaster response, and improving conservation, among others. Andrew is also well-known writer and thinker on the use of technology for social impact, and the author of bestselling Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back, now published in many languages worldwide.

Joe Desmond

Energy and ‘restorative’ wood industry expert

Joe has more than three decades experience in the energy industry in start-up and established organizations. He most recently served as the Vice President of Government and Regulatory Affairs at Katerra, where he played a pivotal role in expanding the market for engineered wood products including leading a national campaign in support of the International Code Council amendments for Tall Wood Buildings. He has held senior positions at BrightSource Energy, a global developer of solar thermal and storage technologies and Ice Energy, Inc. a pioneer in distributed storage managed as a virtual power plant NorthernStar Natural Gas. Prior to private sector leadership, Joe served in numerous executive roles under California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger including Chairman of the California Energy Commission and Undersecretary for Energy Affairs; he was instrumental in developing the nation’s first Greenhouse Gas performance standard for electricity procurement in support of clean energy. Joe has served on numerous boards and committees, including the board the American Council on Renewable Energy, the U.S. Department of Commerce Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee the Board of Directors of the California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy.

Kim Carr

Forest restoration leader

Kim Carr is an independent consultant who most recently ran the National Forest Foundation’s California Program, the nonprofit partner to the US Forest Service, which implements forest restoration partnerships and programs. She has been working on sustainability issues, focusing on climate, renewable energy, forestry, water and local economic development for the past 25 years. She most recently worked as the Assistant Deputy Director for Climate and Energy with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) focusing on climate policy and biomass market development. Prior to this she led the southern sierra team for the Sierra Nevada Conservancy engaging communities in sustainable forest management. She has worked for the U.S. EPA in Washington D.C. focused on recycling market development and also in the private sector offering a variety of environmental consulting services. She has a graduate degree in Natural Resource Planning and Bachelor of Business Administration.

Scott Conway

US Forest Service | remote sensing expert

Scott was a forester (inventory, silviculture, harvest) for the US Forest Service for 20 years and is currently serving as the District Ranger on the Truckee Ranger District on the Tahoe National Forest. Since 2016, Scott has been working as an ecologist for the US Forest Service Region 5 Remote Sensing Lab to help with the required analysis for increasing pace and scale.

Jeff Brown

UC Berkeley Sagehen Field Creek Station | leader in collaborative forest restoration

Jeff is Director of the UC Berkeley – Central Sierra Field Research Station and resident at Sagehen. Sagehen Creek Field Station is a research and teaching facility of UC Berkeley. Sagehen was established in 1951 with the signing of a long-term special use permit from the Tahoe National Forest and embedded within the 9,000 acre Sagehen Experimental Forest. The focus is research, teaching and public service. Research activities are multi-disciplinary and onsite facilities are occupied year-round. Flora, fauna, and insects of the area have been well-studied, and there is substantial climate and hydrological data collected since the 50’s. Sagehen runs a robust artist in residence program in partnership with the Museum of Art in Reno, NV as well as K-12 educational experiences.

Peter Rexer

Technology product developer

Peter advises companies and nonprofits on building teams, software, websites, and even refugee kitchens. His background is in the technology sector as a product engineer and product management lead, defining product vision, architecture, and then developing and managing engineering teams to build products on time and on budget. Peter led the development of Box, a platform for file storage and management and, prior to that, insurance risk products among other commonly used technologies.

Amy Berry

Tahoe Fund | renewable energy leader

Amy Berry is currently the CEO of the Tahoe Fund based in Lake Tahoe. She is responsible for working with the Tahoe Fund’s board of directors to operate the organization and raise private and public funds for environmental improvement projects that will restore and enhance the Lake Tahoe region. Prior to joining the Tahoe Fund, Amy was director of marketing and communications for renewable energy giant ACCIONA’s North American holdings. In this role she was a member of the management committee and responsible for corporate branding, internal communications and product marketing. She also led the company’s communications and stakeholder engagement activities for more than 1,00MW of wind and solar developments. Prior to ACCIONA, Amy was director of marketing for Windspire Energy (formerly Mariah Power) where she led breakthrough marketing and communications for the venture capital backed wind start-up.

Dan Sanchez

UC Berkeley Carbon Negative Lab & Joint Institute for Wood Innovation | carbon negative technology researcher & thought leader

Daniel L. Sanchez is an engineer and energy systems analyst studying the commercialization and deployment of energy technologies that remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Sanchez’s work and engagement spans the academic, nongovernmental, and governmental sectors. As an Assistant Cooperative Extension Specialist, he runs the Carbon Removal Lab, which aims to commercialize sustainable negative emissions technologies, and supports outreach to policymakers and technologists in California and across the United States. Prior to joining the faculty of UC Berkeley, Daniel was a AAAS Congressional Science and Engineering Fellow serving in the Office of Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO). He has previously held positions with the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, Green for All, and the California Public Utilities Commission. He holds a PhD and MS from UC Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group, and a BSE in chemical and biomolecular engineering from the University of Pennsylvania.

Todd Schulte

Creative director, graphic and environment design

Todd is an award winning creative director and graphic designer who believes in using the power of design for good. With 20 years of experience in brand identity, web/UI, print, packaging, and environment design, he brings a holistic and seasoned perspective to his work. He has collaborated with a long list of nonprofits, educational institutions, and tech innovators alike. Clients include Apple, Facebook, Google, National Association of Science Writers, UC Berkeley, San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Micro-Documentaries, Mission Minded and more. Prior to running his own studio he gained valuable experience working at several prominent Bay Area strategic design and innovation firms such as IDEO, Factor Design, SYPartners, and the in-house design team at Apple. Todd holds a BFA in Graphic Design from The Academy of Art University where he recently taught a level three Graphic Design class on User Experience Design.