Founder and board member Rinaldo Brutoco and his wife Lalla Brutoco.

Gail Arnold

Founder and board member Rinaldo Brutoco and his wife Lalla Brutoco.

World Business Academy Gala Raises Funds to Close Diablo Canyon

Event Honors Jean-Michel Cousteau, David Crosby, and Sara Miller McCune

About 175 supporters of the World Business Academy gathered at the El Encanto Hotel on Sunday, September 18 for a gala to raise funds to close Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant and to honor Jean-Michel Cousteau, Sara Miller McCune, and David Crosby.

The World Business Academy (WBA), a nonprofit based in Santa Barbara, focuses on the danger of nuclear power and on the creation of a microgrid energy system using renewable energy sources in Santa Barbara County.

During the VIP reception, guests mingled on the lower level garden patio. Many were clad in elegant attire for this “black tie optional” event. Then guests entered the Riviera Ballroom for the dinner and program where they were welcomed by emcee and auctioneer Geoff Green. The Academy’s supporters showed their solid commitment to the cause in the live auction and paddle raise, allowing the Academy to net $300,000 from the evening.

A film produced by Gaby Mandelik was shown on the campaign to close Diablo Canyon which received wide praise from the audience. Inspiring short films, produced by prominent journalist and filmmaker Dan Molina, were also shown on each of the honorees, followed by moving acceptance speeches.

Jean-Michel Cousteau, president of Ocean Futures Society, educator, environmentalist, and film producer, was honored with the Academy’s first Environmental Stewardship Award. Cousteau was unable to attend due to a family medical situation, so his longtime friend, Charles Vinick, accepted on his behalf.

The Academy honored David Crosby, legendary musician and environmental activist, with its first Community Empowerment Award for his work in raising awareness of social and environmental issues. In introducing this award, WBA founder Rinaldo Brutoco explained that Crosby was being honored for his quiet work over the decades for which he hasn’t received proper recognition. Addressing Crosby, he declared, “tonight, you’re busted.”

Crosby gave an impassioned speech on the dangers posed by Diablo Canyon, noting that the plant is only about 80 miles away from Santa Barbara, and 180 miles from LA. If winds are blowing at only 10 mph, he continued, “that gives 18 hours to get everyone out of LA, draw a picture in your head of the 5 leaving LA, it’s a horror show, that’s what I’m trying to stop,” the millions who will die. He emphasized the risk is not just from an earthquake, but from a terrorist attack as well.

Lastly, the Academy honored Sara Miller McCune, founder and president of Sage Publishing and Pacific Standard magazine, and president of the McCune Foundation, with its first Responsible Business Award.

In accepting her award, McCune humbly remarked that she didn’t think she deserved the award because “others are doing the heavy lifting.” She then stressed the importance of everyone taking action, noting the mess we have and that “if we don’t stand up and do everything that we can do to clean it up and make it better” for others, then “we are not doing what we were put on earth here to do. Thank you, and keep on doing the right thing, please.”

After the State renewed PG&E’s land lease which allows Diablo Canyon to continue operations through 2025, the WBA filed a lawsuit demanding that the State review significant potential environmental and human health dangers posed by the plant’s operation. The Academy maintains that the State did not have the authority to exempt Diablo Canyon from an environmental impact report.

According to the Academy, the State should consider the high seismic risk; adverse health impacts from continuing emissions of radioactive isotopes; harmful effects on marine life; potential adverse impacts from a terror attack; and leakage and buildup of radioactive waste.

At the event, Jerry Brown, director of the Safe Energy Project, shared the publication of a just-released scientific study showing a 28% increase in infant mortality rates at Avila Beach, near Diablo Canyon, since it opened in the mid-1980s while infant mortality rates fell in an inland control area and in the State overall. He stressed the magnitude of the loss of life from Diablo Canyon implicated by this study.

The other major focus of the Academy, the creation of a microgrid energy system using renewable energy sources in south Santa Barbara County, has as its impetus the vulnerability of our current power supply, caused by having the vast majority of our power carried through a single pair of high voltage transmission lines. Making matters worse, the transmission towers between the Santa Clara and Goleta substations, many of which are on steep mountaintops, are vulnerable to wildfires, storms, and earthquakes. According to the Academy, more than enough renewable energy potential exists in our county to fulfill all our power needs.

For more information about the World Business Academy and its projects, go to

By Gail Arnold

David Crosby accepts his award.

By Gail Arnold

Major supporters Betty and Stan Hatch.

By Gail Arnold

Executive director Matt Renner with board president Jim Selman, board member Diane Boss, board member Blaine Bartlett, and Jerry Brown, director of the Safe Energy Project.

By Gail Arnold

Honoree Sara Miller McCune and Judi Weisbart, vice president-community relations and the event producer.

By Gail Arnold

Founder and board member Rinaldo Brutoco and his wife Lalla Brutoco.

By Gail Arnold

State Assembly candidate Monique Limon, U.S. Congressional candidate and current County Supervisor Salud Carbajal, and County Supervisor candidate Joan Hartmann.

By Gail Arnold

Emcee and auctioneer Geoff Green.

By Gail Arnold

Guests enjoy the program.

By Gail Arnold

Archie McLaren and Harry Weisbart.

By Gail Arnold

Laura Capps, Susan Rose, and Nancy Brown.

By Gail Arnold

Judy Weisbart, vice-president-community relations and the event producer (2nd from right) with (l to r) film producers Gaby Mandelik, Skyler Bennett, and Dan Molina.

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