Rebuilding Capacity to Protect the Environment
Director of Policy and Systems Design at the Schumacher Center for a New Economics
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse
US Senator, Rhode Island
Retired US Senator, Colorado
Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project (PCAP)
Executive Director of Environmental Protection Network
Former Under Secretary of U.S. Department of Commerce and Administrator of NOAA
Catherine Coleman Flowers
Founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice (CREEJ)
Senior Advisor, EDF Action & Associate Vice President, Environmental Defense Fund
Greg Watson, Director of Policy and Systems Design at the Schumacher Center for a New Economics
Greg Watson is Director of Policy and Systems Design at the Schumacher Center for a New Economics. His work currently focuses on community food systems and the dynamics between local and geo-economic systems.
Watson has spent nearly 40 years learning to understand systems thinking as inspired by Buckminster Fuller and to apply that understanding to achieve a just and sustainable world.
In 1978 Watson organized a network of urban farmers’ markets in the Greater Boston Metropolitan Area. He served as the 19thCommissioner of Agriculture in Massachusetts under Governors Dukakis and Weld from 1990 to 1993 and under Governor Deval Patrick from 2012 to 2014. During the Patrick administration he launched a statewide urban agriculture grants program and chaired the Commonwealth’s Public Market Commission, which oversaw the planning and construction of the Boston Public Market.
From 1984 to 1990 Watson served as Assistant Secretary in the Massachusetts Executive Office of Economic Affairs, where he established and chaired the Massachusetts Office of Science and Technology. In 1988 he presented a paper entitled “Preparing Policymakers To Address the Problem of Climate Change” at the Second North American Conference on Preparing for Climate Change in Washington, D.C.
Watson gained hands-on experience in organic farming, aquaculture, wind-energy technology, and passive solar design at the New Alchemy Institute on Cape Cod, first as Education Director and later as Executive Director. He served as the first Executive Director of the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust and was Executive Director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, a multicultural grassroots organizing and planning organization for which he initiated one of the nation’s first urban agriculture programs.
In 2005 he coordinated the drafting of “A Framework for Offshore Wind Energy Development in the United States” and the following year founded the U.S. Offshore Wind Collaborative. He served on President-elect Barack Obama’s U.S. Department of Energy transition team in 2008. In 2015 he founded the Cuba-U.S. Agroecology Network (CUSAN) following a trip to Cuba to learn about its agroecology system. CUSAN links small farmers and sustainable farm organizations in both countries to share information and provide mutual support.
He serves on the boards of the Ocean Arks International and Remineralize The Earth.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, US Senator, Rhode Island
Sheldon Whitehouse has earned a reputation in the Senate as a fierce advocate for progressive values and a thoughtful legislator capable of reaching across the aisle to achieve bipartisan solutions.
Senator Whitehouse has been at the center of bipartisan efforts to pass laws overhauling federal education policy, rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, reforming the criminal and juvenile justice systems, protecting Americans from toxic chemicals in everyday products, and addressing ocean plastic waste.
Recognizing the devastating toll of addiction in Rhode Island and across the nation, Whitehouse authored the first significant bipartisan law to address the opioid crisis, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.
Representing the Ocean State, Whitehouse plays a key role in crafting policies addressing climate change, environmental protection, and a price on carbon. He passed into law a dedicated fund to support ocean and coastal research and restoration and bipartisan legislation to confront the crisis of marine plastic and other waste polluting our oceans. He has worked to enact bipartisan measures to reduce carbon pollution and boost America’s clean energy economy.
Whitehouse has stood as a staunch defender of Social Security and Medicare, and has made improving care and reducing costs in our health care system a hallmark of his career. To counteract the corrosive effects of special interests in our democracy, Whitehouse has championed efforts to root out dark money from our elections and make Congress and the courts accountable to the American people.
“While fighting in Washington against corporate interests and their influence on the political process,” wrote the Providence Journal, “Senator Whitehouse has not forgotten the people back home.”
A graduate of Yale University and the University of Virginia School of Law, Sheldon served as Rhode Island’s U.S. Attorney and state attorney general before being elected to the Senate, where he serves on the Finance Committee, the Judiciary Committee, the Environment and Public Works Committee, and the Budget Committee.
He and his wife Sandra, a marine biologist and environmental advocate, live in Newport. They have two grown children.
Tim Wirth, Retired US Senator, Colorado
Senator Wirth began his political career as a White House Fellow under President Lyndon Johnson and served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Education in the Nixon Administration. In 1970, he returned to his home state of Colorado and successfully ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1974. He represented Denver suburbs from 1975-1987. As a first term Congressman, he organized the “Freshman Revolt” in 1975, and with colleagues Norman Mineta, Leon Panetta and Dick Gephardt, he was part of “The Gang of Four” challenging the budget process and developing a high technology and alternative budget in 1982. As Chair of the Communications Subcommittee, he led Congressional initiatives to deregulate the communications industry in America; his legislation became the template for the court-ordered break-up of the AT&T monopoly, and Senator Wirth’s Cable Television Bill of 1984 restructured the television industry. He also authored the Indian Peaks Wilderness Act of 1978, served on the Speaker’s Steering and Policy Committee, and was one of the founders of The Democratic Leadership Council. For eight consecutive years was selected as one of the 25 most effective Members of Congress.
Senator Wirth was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986 where he focused on environmental issues, particularly global climate change and population stabilization. In 1988, he organized the historic Hansen hearings on climate change. With his close friend, the late Senator John Heinz (R-PA), he authored “Project 88,” outlining the groundbreaking “Cap and Trade” idea which became law in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. He authored the far-reaching Colorado Wilderness Bill which became law in 1993, and with Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY) as a co-sponsor, he authored major legislation focused on population stabilization.
In Colorado, Senator Wirth organized the Senate Task Force on the Expansion of Major League Baseball, which became a major factor in the awarding of a new expansion franchise to Denver. He led the effort to gain extensive federal funding for the new Denver Airport, and initiated the successful water policy that obviated plans for the Two Forks Dam. He chose not to run for re-election in 1992, citing in a front-page cover story in the Sunday New York Times Magazine (August 9, 1992), frustration with the ever-increasing role of money in politics to the exclusion of focus on public policy.
Following these two decades of elected politics, Senator Wirth was national Co-chair of the Clinton-Gore campaign, and from 1993 to 1997 served in the U.S. Department of State as the first Undersecretary for Global Affairs. He helped organize U.S. foreign policy in the areas of refugees, population, environment, science, human rights and narcotics. He chaired the United States Delegation at the 1994 Cairo Conference on Population and Development, and was the lead U.S. negotiator for the Kyoto Climate Conference. He resigned from the Administration in late 1997 to accept Ted Turner’s invitation to be President of the newly created United Nations Foundation.
As President of the UN Foundation from its inception in early 1998 to January 2013, Senator Wirth organized and led the formulation of the Foundation’s mission and program priorities, which include the environment, women and population, and children’s health.
Prior to entering politics, Senator Wirth was in private business in Colorado. The son of teachers, he was a scholarship student and graduate of Harvard College, served as a Harvard “Baby Dean” after graduation, and received a Ph.D. from Stanford University. The recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees, he also served as a member of the Harvard Board of Overseers. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he was recently honored as a Champion of the Earth by the United Nations Environment Programme. Senator Wirth is married to Wren Wirth, the President of the environmentally oriented Winslow Foundation; they have two grown children and five grandchildren.
William Becker, Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project (PCAP)
William Becker is a senior associate at Natural Capitalism Solutions and director of the Powering Forward project at Colorado State University’s Center for the New Energy Economy (CNEE). He serves as a policy advisor to the Environment and Energy Study Institute in Washington, D.C., and as a member of Mikhail Gorbachev’s international Climate Change Task Force.
CNEE, founded and is directed by former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, launched Powering Forward in the spring of 2013 with the encouragement of the White House. The project engaged more than 100 thought leaders to create more than 200 recommendations on how the Obama Administration can address climate and energy policy with its existing authorities.
Bill founded and directed the Presidential Climate Action Project from 2007 to 2013. PCAP engaged many of the nation’s climate, energy and public policy experts to identify potential presidential actions on climate change. Former U.S. Sen. Gary Hart and the late green industrialist Ray Anderson chaired PCAP’s prestigious national advisory committee.
Prior to 2007, Bill was a senior official at the U.S. Department of Energy, including 10 years as DOE’s Central Regional Director.
Bill serves on the editorial board of the Solutions journal and is a frequent guest blogger on Huffington Post. His books include The Indefensible Society, a treatise on the national security dimensions of clean energy; Out of Harm’s Way, the story of a flood prone community’s move to higher ground; The Making of a Solar Village on how a rural village became America’s first solar community; and The 100 Day Action Plan to Save the Planet published by St. Martin’s Griffin in New York.
Michelle Roos, Executive Director of Environmental Protection Network
Michelle Roos has served as the Executive Director of EPN since July 2018 and served as EPN’s Deputy Director for 7 months prior to this appointment. She has over 20 years of experience in project management and environmental protection. She has directed high-level projects, organized conferences and work groups, and spearheaded major environmental initiatives.
Ms. Roos is also an EPA alum. At EPA she co-founded and co-managed the West Coast Collaborative – a public-private partnership that implements projects to reduce emissions from diesel engines along the West Coast, Alaska and the American Pacific Islands. She also led a national work group to better incorporate environmental justice into the federal environmental permitting process. Previously, she served as the Special Assistant to the Regional Administrator of Region 9 in San Francisco, CA; as the Special Assistant to the Assistant Administrator of the Office of Air and Radiation in Washington, DC. Ms. Roos was also Presidential Management Intern.
After she left EPA in 2006, Ms. Roos worked as an independent environmental consultant for a variety of clients including E4 Strategic Solutions, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, and EcoMedia. Prior to working at EPA she worked for the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission and spent a summer at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Ms. Roos has a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Duke University and a Master in Public Affairs from Princeton University.
She lives in New York with her husband and two young sons.
James Baker, Former Under Secretary of U.S. Department of Commerce and Administrator of NOAA
Dr. D. James Baker is currently a consultant with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, helping developing countries use satellite remote sensing and GIS technology for measurement, monitoring, reporting, and verification of carbon changes in forests and other land use. He has been Director of the Global Carbon Measurement Program at the Clinton Foundation, a member of the U.S. Commission on Climate and Tropical Forests and of the World Bank’s Technical Advisory Panel and Roster of Experts for the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility. He is an expert in environmental measurement technology and planning for complex technical programs. He is the author of the book: Planet Earth: The View From Space (Harvard University Press, 1990) and received the Vikram Sarabhai Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Space Research in Developing Countries from the Committee on Space Research and the Indian Space Research Organization. From 1993 to 2001, Dr. Baker was a U.S. Presidential appointee in the Clinton Administration as Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at the U.S. Department of Commerce. The longest serving Administrator of NOAA, he had responsibilities which ranged from weather and climate research and forecasting to coastal zone management, fisheries, and protection of endangered species. He has chaired numerous national and international advisory committees and has testified frequently to the United States Congress on environmental issues. He lectures regularly on sustainability, forestry and climate change, and oceanography.
Catherine Coleman Flowers, Founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice (CREEJ)
Catherine Coleman Flowers is an environmental activist bringing attention to the largely invisible problem of inadequate waste and water sanitation infrastructure in rural communities in the United States. As founding director of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice (CREEJ), Flowers builds partnerships across social scales—from close neighbors, to local elected officials and regional nonprofits, to federal lawmakers and global organizations—to identify and implement solutions to the intersecting challenges of water and sanitation infrastructure, public health, and economic development.
Flowers grew up in Lowndes County, Alabama, an area plagued by poverty and failing infrastructure, which often results in raw sewage in yards and waterways and contaminated drinking water for residents. With a deep understanding of the historical, political, economic, and physical contraints that impede the implementation of better infrastructure in the region, she has engaged collaborators across a broad range of disciplinary expertise to document how lack of access to sufficient and sustained waste treatment and clean water can trap rural, predominantly Black populations in a vicious cycle of poverty and disease. In 2011, Flowers worked with the UN Special Rapporteur to uncover the startling level of poverty in Lowndes County and the southern United States more broadly. With the Columbia University Law School Human Rights Clinic and Institute for the Study of Human Rights, she published “Flushed and Forgotten: Sanitation and Wastewater in Rural Communities in the United States” (2019), an examination of inequalities in access to sanitation and clean water within a framework of human rights. The report exposes the extent of water contamination and sanitation problems in poor, rural communities across the country, largely due to the marginalization of these communities. Flowers also spearheaded a collaboration with tropical disease researchers focused on intestinal parasitic infections spread by way of insufficient water treatment and waste sanitation. The researchers found that hookworm, long thought to have been eliminated from the South, is in fact prevalent among the residents of Lowndes County, prompting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to undertake a similar, larger study across the rural American South. Flowers’s testimony to the U.S. Congress led to the introduction of legislation in 2019 to address neglected diseases of poverty in the United States.
Flowers is broadening the scope of environmental justice to include issues specific to disenfranchised rural communities and galvanizing policy and research to redress failing infrastructure that perpetuates socioeconomic disparities in rural areas across the United States.
Jeremy Symons, Senior Advisor, EDF Action & Associate Vice President, Environmental Defense Fund
Jeremy Symons is an environmental and political strategist dedicated to protecting a healthy, livable planet for future generations.
Jeremy Symons has twenty years’ experience in energy and environmental policy, government affairs, media communications, and building highly successful teams. As the Principal of Symons Public Affairs, he works with clients to deliver high-impact, pragmatic solutions to climate change and other threats to public health and the environment.
Jeremy has been called “the top political strategist for the influential conservationist lobby” by The Hill newspaper and “one of the smartest strategists” among environmentalists by Eric Pooley in his book The Climate Wars. In 2017, Rolling Stone magazine named Jeremy one the “top leaders of the Trump resistance.”
Jeremy is a writer and commentator on environmental and energy issues, including penning an opinion column forThe Hill newspaper. He is a frequent advocate for environmental progress in the media and has debated issues across a wide variety of news programming, such as The O’Reilly Factor and News Hour.
As Vice President of Political Affairs at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Jeremy led teams that advanced policy solutions to protect public health and the environment from global climate change, air pollution and other threats. He also helped grow EDF’s political engagement strategy as a senior advisor to EDF Action, the advocacy partner of EDF.
Prior to joining EDF in 2013, Jeremy served as Deputy Staff Director for the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, where he was part of the Senate Democrats’ leadership team on a range of environmental issues and nominations.
Jeremy first grew his conservation and advocacy experience at National Wildlife Federation (NWF), where he was promoted to Senior Vice President for Conservation and Education, responsible for overall leadership of a team of more than 200 talented staff throughout the country.
Jeremy serves on the Advisory Board of Zoetic Global, which brings renewable energy to communities in Africa. Jeremy has served on the Board of Directors of the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation and as co-chair of the Board of the US Climate Action Network. Early in his career, Jeremy worked at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Jeremy lives in Virginia. He holds a master’s degree in Public Policy from Georgetown University and a BA in Environmental Studies from Brown University.