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HOME: Nipomo, California

CURRENT PURSUITS: Environmental provocateur and frequent contributor of opinion pieces to local papers; grantor of the Bill Denneen Environmental Award, which recognizes “significant environmental contributions on California’s Central Coast”; off-grid farmer and cordial host of Bill’s Farm Hostel

FORMER EMPLOYMENT: Biology teacher at Hancock College in Santa Maria, California, and high schools in Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Florida, and California, as well as Germany; ranger naturalist at Sequoia National Park

GROWING HIS OWN SINCE: 1960, when he first took up residence on his one-acre lot in Nipomo. “I started a garden like I had as a kid and got some chickens so I could have fresh eggs.” He went on to raise goats for milk, pigs for meat, and horses for riding.

THINKS GLOBALLY ABOUT: Overconsumption. “Resources are being depleted as corporations push us to buy, buy, buy.”

ACTS LOCALLY TO: Safeguard the ecosystem of Nipomo Dunes and nearby Oceano Beach by keeping vehicles off them; force the shutdown of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. “I have been asked what could replace Diablo. My answer: the sun. I see houses ‘growing’ all over Nipomo with the sun shining on the roofs and no mechanism to utilize this energy source. All roofs need solar panels and photovoltaics like mine has.”

DEFINING TRAITS: Outspokenness, independence, reverence for nature. And a whole-hearted acceptance of his status as an elder.

FEELS THE PULL OF: “His” tree at Nipomo Native Garden, “a natural area that was once proposed for more houses. I led the fight to protect it, and my community designated the largest, most twisted, oldest oak with a plaque that reads ‘The Bill Denneen coast live oak.’ The plaque features a quote from Henry David Thoreau as well: ‘I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately.’ I hug my tree almost daily. My ashes will go there.”

HIS EDUCATION: B.S. (biology), M.A. (sociology), Tufts; M.S. (biology), University of New Mexico

Photo: Kelvin Ma


BIRTHPLACE: Harare, Zimbabwe

CURRENT HOME: Quincy, Massachusetts

PROFESSIONAL POSITIONS: Founding director of the Boston Asian American Film Festival (BAAFF), managing director of the Chinese Historical Society of New England

LABOR OF LOVE: Researching her family’s journey from China to Mozambique and Zimbabwe, and then on to the United States. “I’ve already produced a family album, and now I’m pulling together a video on my family’s experience in colonial Zimbabwe, with a hope of producing a larger documentary.”

EARLY EYE-OPENER: Wayne Wang’s 1989 film Eat a Bowl of Tea, a romantic dramedy about Chinese immigrants. “It gave me a thirst for more films that reflect my experience.”

CALL TO ACTION: “I started noticing that when Asian-American films came to town, I often didn’t find out until they were gone. I decided to make sure we had an annual festival that would show them.”

INTRIGUED BY: The way a film can quickly give audiences a new perspective. “People really enjoy BAAFF’s shorts, which each evoke a different feeling, or make a point that might never be made in mainstream media—for example, they might challenge conventional notions of beauty or examine little-known history. They’re great for sparking conversation.”

THRILLED ABOUT: The Oscar-winning Taiwanese American director Ang Lee’s visit to BAAFF in October. “We hosted a twentieth-anniversary screening of his breakthrough comedy The Wedding Banquet, about a gay Taiwanese man in New York City and how he manages his parents’ traditional expectations. So many people reached out with stories about how that film changed their lives.”

LOOKING FORWARD TO: Weather warm enough for hanging out at Castle Island in South Boston. “I love being close to the water. And sometimes I’ll find my dad fishing there.”

DEFINING TRAITS: Enthusiasm, curiosity, creativity, a sense of fun, and a passion for building community

HER EDUCATION: B.A. (American studies), Tufts

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