Warmed by Answers: The California Cool Effect


I gazed up at the large building at the Presidio in front of me. This moment was the thing that had kept me up late last night, but I had never imagined that it would be this magnificent. The event took place in a large, marble white creature of beauty. The inside: a cloud of chatter and environmentalism. We were early, but I still saw a number of people hanging around the breakfast area, discussing things in loud, cheerful voices. The first thing that my mom, my sister, and I did was go straight over to the breakfast table and get in a conversation with one of the panelists: Marisa de Belloy, CEO of Cool Effect. That is, Marisa introduced herself and she and my mom got in a conversation. My sister went over to inspect the blueberry muffins and I stood and watched them talk.

Soon the crowd began to build up, and as it did, the noise level did, too. I gathered a few things for breakfast on my plate and then went to sit down next to my sister. My mom, of course, went to talk to some other people but eventually sat down next to us. We didn’t really talk because we would have to shout.

Finally, a man named Nick Aster (founder and publisher of TriplePundit) came up in front of the seats and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, if I could have your attention, we are going to start in about five minutes, and the panelists are coming in about three minutes.”

The crowd fell silent immediately.

“Well, it seems like you’re a good audience already,” said Mr. Aster, and he went back to his corner. 

Eventually everyone settled down and the chatter died to what seemed then like a whisper. A hush went throughout the crowd as the panelists sat down.

They began their presentation introducing who they were and what they did. In addition to Marisa, there was Jamie Redford, co-founder of the Redford Center, Valorie Aquino, former co-chair for the March for Science, and Amanda Chen, senior director for social impact for participant media. Jamie Redford showed us a short film about him investigating where his electricity came from. He explained it first, and I found it very interesting how he did it. He followed the electric lines to his nearest power plant.

Nick Aster asked the panelists some questions. What I gathered from the answers was that even if the panelists’ houses went underwater, they would only fight harder. They weren’t giving up hope.

Finally, it was time for congressman Jared Huffman to be presented with an award from Environment California. I thought that it would be a certificate of some sorts, but really it was a large piece of paper with pictures all over it of people thanking him. It was a lot more personalized than I thought. All the better. And then it was time for the questions. My mom had told me before that this was a great opportunity to get my question answered because there wouldn’t be much opportunity to get my question answered by the panelists afterwards when the chatter would move forward and surround the panelists.

I raised my hand several times. Twice the man made eye contact with me and nodded. A sharp pang of nervousness went through me the second time. Finally, when three people had gone, it was time for the final question. The man at the front looked at me and said, “Well, I promised this young lady that she could go next.” At first I didn’t know it was me that he was addressing. I had never really been called young lady in my life. But when no one else stood up, I knew that it was me. I got out on the aisle and a nice man beside me handed me the microphone. I took a deep breath and spoke, “Hi, I’m Sierra and I’m nine years old and I’m very passionate about the environment and writing. I came here wondering what would a nine-year old who is passionate about the environment and writing do to help fight climate change?”

20232775_1784439731846928_5868191697191167529_oI gave the microphone back to the man and sat down almost immediately. That didn’t stop applause from showering like rain, though.

I got lots of answers from the panelists. Jamie Redford told me about the importance of young voices.


Valorie Aquino told me to speak my thoughts. I also got some answers from people in the crowd afterwards. They all seemed like very interesting people, and wonderful environmentalists. I left feeling inspired.

Here are some photos from the event.

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