About rbvergara

Born and raised in the Philippines. Moved to California on April 15, 1986 two months after Marcos was overthrown. Have been building a new life and stronger roots in Southern California since then.

Cats and other birds, not wind farms, kill birds

I had a silly conversation with some one several days ago; this person cautioned me, likely in jest (at least I hope), that I should make sure I consider the number of birds killed by wind farms if I were to continue working in clean technology.

Do wind farms kill birds? Yes. So do cats and other birds; but no one dares to make an issue of the intra- and interspecies killing because it would be silly.

Here’s science to bring things into perspective: https://phys.org/news/2017-06-farms-bird-slayers-theyre-behere.html


#TakeTheKnee is FeudArt


Sharing my own 9/23/17 tweet storm re: Trump NBA and NFL comments…

Self-expression is patriotism for thinking men & women of conscience guaranteed by the Constitution. #TakeTheKnee #MyKnowledgeCounts 

2/ Self-expression is the foundation for civic engagement, climate action, and tech-enabled problem solving in Info Age and era of climate

3/ change. Self-expression is the outcome of critical thinking, of analytical and creative thought, among fully individuated adults.

4/ As such, there would be no new ideas, no innovation without self-expression. CleanTech is self-expression, and self-expression is

5/ CleanTech. Self-expression is decarbonization. Self-expression is #GlobalGoals #MyKnowledgeCounts #GlobalPeopleSummit @ThePeopleSummit

Part I – ‘Black swan’ Philippines: From disaster relief to clean technology advocacy and commercialization


In Fall 2009, a series of seven super typhoons and tropical storms struck the Philippines between August and October–a 3-month period that reshaped the trajectory of my life and career. Fall 2009 is my ‘black swan’ event, to borrow a term from Nassim Taleb. This post is part of a series in which I will bring order to my journey since 2009, from anti-poverty crusader to running a CleanTech incubator for the grass-roots. The resulting series will show how I sought meaning from the chaos.

It Began with Chaos

That those seven extreme weather events wreaked havoc in three Northern Provinces where I have relatives was news too heavy to bear; yet, I could not help but be drawn to and consumed by the news. I binged on cable news, Youtube videos, and online news that brought coverage.

Video 1

Video 2

Video 3

The impact on me was part shock, part paralysis; I also remember feeling a deep sense of empathy, nationalism, and love for a community that raised me from birth but had to leave as a young boy. And there was also anger and drive. That my people were dying first, in high numbers, and frequently was deeply maddening; it left a living mark on my soul that prodded me to reinvent my work and, in the process, my self.

I was in professional limbo for many years immediately after Fall 2009, having lost faith in social work as a helping profession capable of responding to climate change. I was full of questions.

What is the point in human service delivery if the field were impotent in addressing the macro-level root causes of extreme weather events?

What is the point in a profession that helps others “feel good” and “cope adaptively” after the fact, while at once mute and irrelevant in decarbonization?

What is social work good for if it cannot proactively protect those who are imperiled? If it is technically ill-suited and technologically unprepared as a solution-maker in the Information Age?

As a social worker, what am I good for if I’m impotent in dealing with the social welfare issues tied to the climate crisis?

It took several years to heal and regain my center, reclaim the sure-footedness I lost. I forced my self to extract fulfillment from the work I was doing, but as I contrived the meaning-making, I just felt further out of love with social work. I wanted a major change. I wanted to transition to a field more consequential.

Now, even as I still find myself reinventing the work with others, I am buoyed by the prospect of solid, muscular hope. I am building my tribe through CYPHER. And for the first time in a long time, our invented work can be magnified, made as sharp as a spearhead, with AASWSW GC8: Harnessing technology for social good.


A message to all leaders and community members alike: We wait and hesitate to act at our peril

I’m very glad to be part of this global movement for the good it aims to bring in the world and everyone. My focus remains at the grassroots where the sustainable and imaginative practical solutions must arise.

So while this video is targeted to world leaders, I urge all our youth leaders at CYPHER to view this message made for them, as well. They are the youth leaders of now and the world leaders of tomorrow.

Flow with us on Twitter at @cypheryouth

Innovation as a river: Reflecting on Day 3 of #CRinFlorida


These next few days I’ll be sharing my personal reflection on a climate leadership conference I’m part of; this is the third and last installment. I do this to capture the raw emotion in my daily reflection in order to help me with my later writing. If these posts benefit you, too, in any small way, please let me know via a comment. Thank you.

This last day is perhaps the most uplifting of the three days because of the flood of emotion from leaving new friends, dreaming up new collaborations, and feeding on insight from others — like, Philippe Cousteau, Jr., John Kao, Chris Hayes, and Al Gore, to name a few climate leaders I’ve had the benefit to learn from this week.

The fatigue from the trip is real, but it is quickly overshadowed by the optimism I have about this work that moves me deeply. I’ve traveled far, literally and figuratively, in my anti-poverty work; that it led me here, at this conference, in the company of all these climate and sustainability leaders, is something I never imagined. — To Dr. Pauline Agbayani who found me a professional field, thank you. If you are reading this, please know that I am deeply thankful for knowing you.

This video I took of Miami River, which has been routinely overflowing recently, starts with a bend in the river that’s been cemented over, and beside it, a shot of the river moving calmly but steadily.

The imagery is a visual aid to a simple point: like bending a river’s flow with steel and concrete, we can change the direction of the body politic around climate action with innovation. We each define what ‘climate innovation’ means by leveraging the things we are most passionate about in our life.

We, at CYPHER, for example, are passionate about sustainable development, tech-enabled climate resilience, and hip-hop. So climate innovation is what we, at CYPHER, promote when we challenge inner-city and farmworker youth to use their direct experience with local human impacts of climate change (e.g., heat wave, drought, etc.) as inspiration for CleanTech and soft robotics. Climate innovation is what we, at CYPHER, promote when we work with local independent hip-hop artists (shout-out to @JessicaKimble88 from California and @NaledgeEvans from Chicago) to mobilize the youth to action via the sound of their music.

Climate innovation is not limited to the genius few. Or the smartest. Or even the most privileged. Climate innovation can be taught and acquired because complex problem-solving is built into each of us; it is ‘baked in.’

Climate innovation is both outcome and process, both idea and practice. Climate innovation is a continuum of capability, all the way from ‘good enough’ competence to high-level mastery. And along this capability continuum, as with a river, we can either jump into innovation whenever we would like to be refreshed by our experience of it, or stand in the sidelines cheering those who dare to swim in it, admiring the joy its brings us and others as we all watch.

Both are responses that are human, and normal, and agreeable. One is not better than the other; both have value. Both show us how we ought to cultivate innovation, in general, and sustain climate innovation, in particular, in our own communities.

Climate innovation is a human potential inherent in everyone because we live in a closed system, called Earth. None of us can escape the human impacts of climate change in this closed system; those impacts touch us all. And because we each have a direct personal experience with its human impacts, we also each have a kernel of an idea for how to address it.

Climate innovation is not limited to the genius few. Or the most gifted. Or the most educated. Climate innovation can be taught and acquired because complex problem-solving is built into each of us; it is ‘baked in.’

Join us on Twitter @cypheryouth to find out more about the climate innovation we are doing.

The journey of an audience: #CRinFlorida Day 2 Reflection

These next few days I’ll be sharing my personal reflection on a climate leadership conference I’m part of; this is the second installment. I do this to capture the raw emotion in my daily reflection in order to help me with my later writing. If these posts benefit you, too, in any small way, please let me know via a comment. Thank you.

A scenic route is the journey of an audience–this was the biggest take away for me from the gathering today. The audience can be made to feel happy, disgusted, empathetic, and emboldened–all these in order to get them to say “Yes” and/or “I will join you.”

There is a way to engineer a presentation so that the audience goes through a variety of emotions that prime it for empowerment, and then mobilization. We can use emotion to leverage the audience’s attention in systematically walking the audience toward action.


There is no rigid or standard formula in building this emotional and cognitive journey by the audience. There is only the practical insight that being an ‘audience expert’ is as important as being a ‘subject matter expert’ in moving an audience toward action. The method is neither exact, nor clearly defined so it is challenging to describe the steps via a blog post. There is a hierarchy of priorities when communicating: the key point, the evidence for the key point (3 take-aways, max), and additional but optional detail that helps drive the message home.

I also share an image I found online to show how an audience journey could be deliberately engineered; see below.


For additional resources, google Anthony Wilson from Executive Influence Pty Ltd; he gave the workshop on communication strategies.

That giving a presentation is both an affective and cognitive experience was/is not a new idea but the engineering of it as a deliberate journey is an interesting idea worth practicing.

Sorry class, you will be my guinea-pigs. It’s for science! And sustainable development! And hopefully also for your empowerment.