When I started the journey that led me to Sierra Business Council, I was an athlete with one goal in mind — swimming fast.
I was recruited to swim Division 1 at San Jose State University, and while I had academic interests, there were so manydegree options it was overwhelming. Luckily, I had swimming to help keep me grounded.
I grew up climbing on granite slabs at Donner Summit, and the rock formations fascinated me. Everywhere I went in the mountains, I found myself mesmerized by the colors, textures, and stratigraphy lines that painted the landscapes. Having grown up in Northern California in an outdoors family, the concept of conservation was ingrained very early. “Respect the playground; if you want the beautiful places you love to remain intact, then do your part.” At that point in my life, I knew I wanted to do something that allowed me to be outside and in the field solving problems (or something to that extent). Naturally, I began my academic career pursuing a degree in geology.
Sometime during my sophomore year, after taking a few social science courses, I realized that I also was starting to fall in love with anthropology. From there, I stumbled into archaeology and that drove me deep into the realm of studying people, things, and how people interacted with those things in their environments. As fascinating as archaeology was (and still is), I still loved rocks. So while I majored in anthropology, I also minored in geology, with the hope that future me would figure out how to blend the two fields. The qualitative and the quantitative.
Eventually continuing on to graduate school, my goal was to find a research project that embodied both my passions for archaeology and geology. I found geoarchaeology. To make a long story short, my graduate research involved storytelling of landscapes and investigating how prehistoric people interacted with those landscapes over time. What most people don’t know about archaeology, is that it’s not always about finding a lost treasure and fighting the Nazis with Sean Connery (as fun as that sounds). It’s not even always about excavating a prehistoric tool and studying how it might have been used.
Archaeology is more about trying to understand how that tool might have been made. Where did the materials used to make it come from? If it was traded from another community, how far did people travel to acquire it? What was traded in return? If it was made, how were the materials acquired and transported? Were the materials mined, dug up, found? What tools were used to acquire it? How did the people come to learn this technology? The questions never end. Archaeology is about understanding the entanglement of a community’s way of life and the evolution of its relationship to a location(s). My research specifically focused on using spatial analysis, site formation processes, and a deeper understanding of pedogenic processes/sediment analysis to begin to understand how the site became an archaeological site in the first place. Some questions leading into the project included, why did these people leave? Was there a volcanic eruption that forced them to run? Did climate change play a role, and influence their way of life? All of these questions could be answered through evidence left in the landscape.
Fast forward to Fall 2020. After a frustrating year of unpredictable change that affected every corner of the world, I had an opportunity that allowed me to move to Truckee (the ultimate end game). I then discovered Sierra Business Council, and after unearthing what the organization does more specifically, it instantly felt like it was meant to be.
One of the reasons I am so interested in SBC is how we approach invoking change in the Sierra. Our projects are geared toward creating a more diverse, efficient, and sustainable environment where communities can thrive. We are not only passionate about generating opportunities for small businesses in rural communities, but also strengthening a foundation for sustainability that keeps environmental integrity in mind. The project I am currently working on, Sierra Nevada Regional Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment, is aligned with my past research interests because our goal is to not only focus on the environmental risks of climate change in the Sierra, but also investigate how these risks might influence rural communities. By putting solutions forward in these projects, we paint a pathway for communal adaptability in the Sierra.
I very much look forward to being a part of the idealism that pioneers and demonstrates innovative solutions to strengthen communities. The Vulnerability Assessment is just one project at SBC that embodies both the ideologies that I grew up on and my academic passions for studying how people interact with landscapes in a mutually beneficial way.
It’s one thing to follow the news reports and social media videos of wildfire damage from afar, mentally preparing yourself for what it might be like to try and identify the skeletal remains of a structure as your own family’s cabin or home. Or see the tornados of fire set ablaze against a hillside you’ve traversed hundreds of times by car or by foot. Or watch a community you know and love evacuate by the thousands, their whole lives crammed into one carload.
It’s another thing entirely when it happens for real.
As we contemplated go-bag contents and watched the relentless advance of the Beckwourth, River, Tamarack, and especially the Dixie fire over the last few weeks, one of our dearest Small Business Development Center counselors, Clint Koble was smack in the middle of the devastation. Clint lives at and manages a resort in Chester along Lake Almanor. Over the course of several days, Clint holed up at the resort, guarded by the command of fire fighters he so graciously hosted. The firefighters instructed him to park his car on the boat ramp and to take refuge in the car should the flames approach – they would protect him.
The ripple effect of COVID-19 is still being felt in the Sierra and beyond. As the following guest blog (written by SBDC Business Advisor, Danielle Marshall) highlights, one area in particular where we’re still reeling from the pandemic is its disproportionate impact on women (especially women of color). We’re excited to announce an upcoming course taught by Danielle later this year that will hopefully help lessen the obstacles women face in reentering the workforce by helping entrepreneurs start in-home childcare businesses.
Photo of working mom by Charles Deluvio via Unsplash
Since the start of the pandemic, Sierra Business Council’s impact has included:
-Providing over 1,400 small businesses with one-on-one counseling. -Infusing $18.5 million in economic capital in communities across the Sierra. Supporting over 4,000 jobs in the region. Helped secure $536 million in early action wildfire funding for California. -Deploying $1.2 million to bring reliable broadband infrastructure to rural neighborhoods. -Begining a 22-county Vulnerability Assessment to better prepare the region for climate impacts.