MAKING PROJECTS THAT STAND THE TEST OF TIME
MY CLIMATE JUSTICE JOURNEY
My climate journey started during my airline pilot days. For a few years, I flew the same routes back and forth from America’s northeastern seaboard to its lower Great Lakes. During those flights, I used to marvel at just how vast and green our country was. Over time, I saw that green disappearing into the browns and reds and greys as trees were razed by the acre, baring ground, leveled and then developed into housing or industrial parks. Jarring.
Later, after I joined another airline, I flew routes from Atlanta to Dallas over America’s Gulf Coast repeatedly. Again I could marvel at both the size and green of our southern states and the speed of human development.
The night of August 29, 2005, my crew and I departed Atlanta around 11:30 PM on a two-hour flight to Dallas. Earlier that day, Hurricane Katrina walloped the gulf states. By the time we reached our 32,000 feet cruising altitude halfway to our destination, we were above the massive storm and almost abeam Jackson, MS. Our electronic map displayed what Katrina’s enormous width obscured—the gulf to our left, Mobile, Alabama, New Orleans Baton Rouge, Louisiana under us. And from my view on the right side of the cockpit, I could see thanks to moonglow reflecting off the top of them, the northern edge of Katrina’s cloud bands just engulfing Jackson, MS. I also watched as several large electrical transformers in that city exploded, arcing massive blue and green bolts as the failed. And I watched as each city block around those transformers winked out. Awful.
The next morning, we flew back to Atlanta just after dawn. Even from 29,000 feet up, the giant scale of destruction was as clear as being just one hundred feet off the ground. Mind-blowing.
In 2006, I watched An Inconvenient Truth. A year later I cried halfway through “The Story of Stuff”. Life changing.
By 2009, my wife and I’d started iLiveGreen Foundation—the mission of which was to teach school-aged children about the importance of planting trees to combat climate change. We educated about 80 students, who in turn sold enough of our handmade, green hemp bands to plant 10,000 trees.
In 2012, my wife and I wanted to subscribe to a full-service food scrap composting pick up service in DC. Finding none, we started our own—Veteran Compost Residential. From 2013-2016, the year we sold it, we’d gained about 1,000 customers and helped divert over 695,000 pounds of food scraps into almost a million pounds of compost and preventing the creation of over 58,000 pounds of the super greenhouse gas, methane. The company we started still flourishes today.
In 2020, having become depressed by the lack of people following my micro-climate leadership (solar panels on roof, rain barrels on downspouts, EV in the garage), I chose to pivot away from leading and toward following by co-founding a media and technology platform with my wife called, The Climate, Inc. Its goal is to educate intelligent, curious people who care about working to combat climate change but who aren’t climate change experts. Its mission is to amplify and disseminate the stories of people and organizations taking environmental justice-based, equity-oriented, diverse and inclusive, solutions-based action toward Climate Crisis mitigation, adaption and resilience-building in their local, often marginalized communities.
Since 2021, I’ve produced over 600 episodes of The Climate Daily podcast—stories of people and organizations taking action to combat climate change and delivered to you, in about 8 minutes. We now have an audience of about between 25,000 and 30,000 listeners. Humbling.
In January 2023, The Climate successfully completed its first ever Climate Champions campaign. Inspired by our listeners, we partnered with 30 tree-planting organizations to commit to planting 10,000 trees at a time in one of seven regions around the world on our behalf. What’s a climate Champion?
A Climate Champion is someone who sees the impacts of climate change, experiences those changes themselves, and knows we cannot continue the way we have. They’re somebody who loves our green, blue and beautiful planet and wants the things they love about it to be there – just as green, blue and beautiful – for their children and their children’s children. A climate champion is one willing to take action to help change the current direction – so our fears don’t come to pass.
We opened the Climate Champion on January 15, 2023—MLK, Jr. Day of Service—and in only one week, thirty-three listeners donated the money to plant our first 10,000 trees in a forest in California. Thrilling.
In March 2023, East of the River, a short film I produced with Phillip Boughknight and Amin El Siwi about the origins of Black climate activism in Washington, DC’s impoverished Wards 7 & 8. The film won “Best Documentary Short” at the 2023 DC Independent Film Festival. Inspiring.