Earth Day Panel: Innovators Creating Sustainable Communities | Mechanics' Institute

You are here

Earth Day Panel: Innovators Creating Sustainable Communities
with Quinlin Messenger, Lara Lebeiko, Dustin Mulvaney, and Karen Topakian

Join Mechanics' Institute in conversation on the future of sustainable communities with Bay Area environmental activists and innovators Quinlin Messenger, Lara Lebeiko (stepping in for Kirstin Weeks), and Dustin Mulvaney, moderated by Karen Topakian. The panel will address new directions of alternative energy, design concepts and production, and resources for diverse communities. Challenging "doom and gloom" climate narratives, the speakers will offer alternative perspectives of hope, stewardship, and reciprocity with the land.

The event will feature a reading by San Mateo Poet Laureate Emeritus Aileen Cassinetto from Dear Human at the Edge of Time, the award-winning climate change anthology in response to the Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5).

Attendees will have the opportunity to contribute poems to the Dear Human microsite and peruse an environmental book selection curated by the speakers.





About the Speakers

Quinlin Messenger, Founder and Director of JUST Design

As a design justice & equity steward, Quinlin’s leadership and creative identity is rooted in his African American, Native American, and Jewish heritage; he channels and honors these legacies through design justice, an awareness and healing modality that is at the core of his practice - engaging communities and projects with a sensitivity and focus towards healthy living, social and environmental empowerment, and legacy cultivation. With over 15 years of experience working with underserved communities, Quinlin believes design is a tool for social and environmental transformation, and that systems can be and should be just for all. Understanding the historical, current, and future contexts of projects is integral to Quinlin’s process and approach, integrating co-creative and eco-centered practices to address the deepest challenges our communities and ecosystems face.

Lara Lebeiko, Landscape Designer of Mithun Landscape Architecture

Lara Lebeiko is a designer at Mithun, working on park design, affordable housing and resilience projects in the Bay Area. She has a background in business and consulting, and a masters in Landscape Architecture from University of Southern California, where she focused on urban ecosystems and biodiversity considerations in site design.


Dustin Mulvaney, Professor of Environmental Studies at San Jose State University

Dustin is a Professor in the Environmental Studies Department at San José State University, one of the first six interdisciplinary environmental studies programs in the USA, founded as a result of the first Earth Day 1970. Dustin’s work focuses on the social and environmental dimensions of commodity chains and production systems where he studies questions about emerging technologies, socio-ecological change, and environmental justice. The areas of expertise Dustin works on include solar energy commodity chains, some of which is synthesized in his book Solar Power, Innovation, Sustainability, and Environmental Justice (University of California Press, 2019). He wrote the textbook Sustainable Energy Transitions: Socio-Ecological Dimensions of Decarbonization with Palgrave-MacMillan/Springer was published in December 2020. Dustin’s second textbook Energy, Society, and Environment will be released in 2024 with Wiley-Blackwell.

Moderator Karen Topakian, Founder of Topakian Communications

Karen is a writer, speaker, communications consultant, meeting facilitator, and social change activist. Karen worked for more than 40 years in the nonprofit world, including as executive director at the Agape Foundation – Fund for Nonviolent Social Change and as an anti-nuclear campaigner at Greenpeace. She has participated in numerous direct actions against militarism, nuclear weapons, and to protect the environment. The documentary, Arrested (Again) by Dan Goldes, showcases her history. She served as a board member at Western States Legal Foundation and Women’s AIDS Network and as chair of the board of Greenpeace, Inc.

Aileen Cassinetto, San Mateo Poet Laureate

Aileen Cassinetto (she/her) is a Filipino and American writer, adult immigrant, daughter and granddaughter of immigrants, and 2021 Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow. With Luisa A. Igloria and Jeremy S. Hoffman, she co-edited the award-winning climate change anthology, Dear Human at the Edge of Time, a companion to the congressionally mandated Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5), and launched the project and interactive microsite Dear Human in partnership with Wick Poetry Center and Poets for Science to foster creativity, innovation, discovery, and equity. The co-founder of Paloma Press, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Poets, Anthropocene, Poetry,, and West Trestle Review. She currently serves as Commissioner on the Status of Women for San Mateo County, California, and directs the San Mateo County Youth Cultural Ambassadors program.

Meet the Author(s)

Members Free
Non-Members $10
Register now ›
4th Floor Meeting Room
Programs & Events - 415-393-0116
Register now by using the form below or calling 415-393-0116.


Future Meet the Author(s)

Apr 29 - 6:00 pm

No Poetry No Peace™
A Reading and Celebration of Human Poetic Expression, hosted by Sheryl J. Bize Boutte.

May 9 - 6:00 pm

A Revolver to Carry at Night
with author Monika Zgustova in conversation with Sabrina Jaszi

May 20 - 6:00 pm

Red Tarot
with Christopher Marmolejo

May 22 - 6:30 pm

Mother Road
with acclaimed playwright Octavio Solis and director David Mendizábal