What do you say when people ask you, "What do you do?"
I am an activist. I lead an organization devoted to education on the true facts surrounding the worst civil engineering in U.S. history which occurred in New Orleans in August 2005 when the levees and floodwalls, designed and built by the Army Corps of Engineers, failed catastrophically. The flooding was a man-made catastrophe, not a natural disaster.
What new idea or innovation is having the most significant impact on the sustainability world?
The Citizens United victory against the Federal Election Commission has dealt a terrible blow to the environmental movement and now allows big business to give practically unlimited funding to politicians. It's by changing the laws, not changing the behavior of individuals that will save the planet. The 'sky's the limit' funding of politicians by businesses is doing terrible harm to our nation's resources and critters and to the planet as well.
What's something that most people just don't understand about your area of expertise?
For an activist, being right is only the very beginning in the quest to reach one's goals. Every day people everywhere are waking up just like me with a message to send. They are all telling themselves the same thing, and that is "if only people would just listen and hear what I have to say." That knowledge is actually comforting to me. It lets me know I am not alone, and my only challenge is to be really good at communicating my message.
What's an emerging trend that you think will shake up the sustainability world?
The movement towards Open Data, the emerging concept that certain data should be released publicly so that non-stakeholder geeky techies can massage, analyze, and number-crunch that data to discover and arrive at truths. Right now, we are encouraging the Army Corps to release LSACs or Levee Safety Action Classifications in order to determine if limited funds for flood protection infrastructure is being spent wisely or being wasted.
What's a sustainability trend that you wish would go away?
Astroturf groups. Created by big businesses pretending to care about sustainability, astroturfers are fake grassroots workers who stalk, harass, and disparage true grassroots workers in community forums and blogs. Disguising their true identities, these astroturfers pretend to be engaged citizens speaking out while their goal is actually to protect the big business that pays them. They're everywhere, all around us every day.
What's an idea you became fascinated with but that ended up taking you off track?
Getting political allies in states other than Louisiana where our organization is based. We have chapters in California and Florida and we spent a lot of time and effort in 2008 trying to get support from members of Congress in those states. We found that even when our goals seamlessly meshed with those of these politicians, even when our work would help their causes, they rebuffed our request to list them as allies to our organization.