What's a sustainability trend that you wish would go away?
Greens tend to be too fatalistic about our chances of changing the rules of the political game. We just keep playing and hoping, as if the game weren't rigged. But it is rigged. Comprehensive climate policy that's adequately ambitious is impossible without filibuster reform in the U.S. Senate, for example. It may also require a constitutional amendment that limits the role of dirty money in politics. That may sound like a hopeless quest, but I believe it's possible. If we climate hawks and sustainability warriors united with other small-d democratic forces, we could unrig the game, and fix our system of governance. And then, many new things will be possible.
What's an idea you became fascinated with but that ended up taking you off track?
I spent most of my first decade in this work at a think tank in Washington, D.C., focusing intently on challenges in faraway, exotic, developing countries. It served my wanderlust well, but I only started having a real impact when I re-centered my attention on my own part of the planet, the Pacific Northwest.
Who are three people or organizations that you would put in a Hall of Fame for your field?
Michelle Long, a former drug company sales rep from Ohio who built a local business alliance in little Bellingham, Washington -- a group with an unmatched commitment to sustainability and a membership far larger than the local chamber of commerce.
Jefferson Smith, a young state representative from Portland, Oregon, who bought a charter bus and turned it, as The Bus Project, into the most-happening youth political organizing outfit west of the Mississippi.
Tyree Scott, a hard-line labor- and civil-rights organizer from Seattle, who taught me before his death in 2003 to laugh -- hard -- at the absurdity of social-change movements, without ever yielding an inch.
What other field or occupation did you consider going into?
I was once intent on being a classical trombonist, and I even earned a bachelor's in trombone performance. But thinking about the massive threats to our collective future -- mass species extinction, for example -- made practicing feel like fiddling while Rome burned. (And no, I don't play anymore, though I still move my slide arm involuntarily during the trombone solo in the Mozart Requiem.)
What website or app most helps you do your job on a daily basis?
My organization publishes the Northwest's go-to source on sustainability solutions: www.sightline.org. Like the rest of my staff, I'm on it all day long. Facebook keeps me in almost constant contact with our huge community of allies around the Pacific Northwest. Pandora keeps me grooving through the long days of running the largest progressive think tank in the upper left corner of the continent.
What song's been stuck in your head lately?
Lizz Wright's haunting rendition of Bernice Johnson Reagon's "I Remember, I Believe," on the album Fellowship: "I don't know how my mother walked her trouble down / I don't know how my father stood his ground / I don't know how my people survived slavery / I do remember, that's why I believe."