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Meet Philip Radford, Executive Director of Greenpeace

This week's Change Maker is a grassroots activism guru, an energy policy pioneer and a Capital Hill heavyweight—all rolled into one!

Jess Root

By Jessica Root
Brooklyn, NY, USA | Thu Apr 30 14:30:00 EDT 2009

change maker phil radford photo


Image courtesty Phil Radford/Greenpeace

How does someone make it to the top of one of the most well-known, long-standing and member supported environmental organizations of all time? A healthy mix of dedication, passion and fortitude—exactly what Philip Radford, the newest Executive Director of Greenpeace has reflected in his impressive eco-career.

After obtaining a certificate in non-profit management from Georgetown University, Philip served as field director of Ozone Action, where he mapped out a successful campaign during the 2000 primaries, convincing Senator McCain to champion global warming.He then went on to make a further dent on Capital Hill, founding and organizing Power Shift, the popular campaign and conference encouraging the nation's youth to hold our elected officials accountable for rebuilding a clean energy economy.

His accumulating expertise in grassroots mobilization was bound to get even bigger when he stepped in to power up Greenpeace—launching the $9 million Grassroots Program including a student organizing and training team and door-to-door canvas program. Now, having recently moved up the ranks as Executive Director, Philip manages Greenpeace’s student, online and field organizing teams.

How did you get into this line of work?
Julie Samuels—a great local organizer in Chicago—recruited me as a high school student to hold banners and testify at hearings against waste incinerators on the west side of Chicago. She and others showed me how to do what my parents had raised me to believe: that to be a good person is to dedicate your life to doing good.

What was your "a-ha" moment?
I've had several moments when I've realized that small groups of people can move mountains. One was when, after building a network of farmers, we successfully persuaded the American Farm Bureau Federation to drop a lawsuit which would have led to the removal and killing of endangered wolves in Yellowstone National Park. Another moment was when I worked with a few college students and nuns who, through the use of the stock of the Church and universities, convinced Ford, GM, Texaco, and other companies to stop funding the Global Climate Coalition, an industry front-group fighting global warming solutions. Both taught me that when a few people take a stand, they can take on Goliath and win.

Who is your green hero?
Van Jones comes to mind. He cares about people and the planet. He is a modern environmental leader who understands how to build powerful community organizations and inspires people to act.

What is your ultimate green goal?
Prevent the worst impacts of global warming by transitioning to a green energy economy and nuclear disarmament.

What is your motivation?
Solving the greatest ecological crises of our time.

What is most important to you, ecologically speaking?
Stopping the worst effects of global warming. Scientists say that if we don't act, we could lose 70 percent of the world’s species.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
Greenpeace is blessed to have the support of 2.9 million donating members around the world. The most challenging part of the job is deciding daily if we are spending each hard earned dollar that our members give us in the most effective way to protect the environment.

What is the most rewarding?
The feeling of joy when you are standing with your team celebrating a hard fought campaign that you've won together.

Of the people you have worked with, who impresses you most?
Two great men: John Passacantando, the former director of Greenpeace, whose strategic instinct and track record of changing the political landscape on global warming has made it possible to imagine that solving the problem could be a reality. And Ross Gelbspan, a reporter at the Boston Globe who unearthed the Iran Contra Scandal and later went on to uncover the scandalous cover up of global warming by polluting companies. Ross has been the lone voice, the moral compass, the beacon that has inspired countless people, me included, to demand our country and our future back from the coal and oil interests behind global warming.

What green thing do you do everyday?
I take public transportation to work, where I dedicate my creativity and passion to persuading major companies and governments to solve some of society's greatest challenges.

What do you wish you could do?
I'd love to meet Mos Def and The Roots.;)

What is your biggest eco-sin?
My staff signed me up for bacon of the month club. Don't tell… but I liked it.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
I'd reduce the power and influence that companies like Exxon and Southern Company have over our elected officials.

What is your best green advice?
If you're reading this, you're probably doing your part. You may have efficient light bulbs or bring your own bags to the grocery store. Now it's time for politicians and corporations to do their part. And they won't unless you take action, whether at Greenpeace or with local groups in your community. Make a phone call, send a letter, host an event, or stop that new coal plant in the town next door.

Change Makers is series of interviews with people famous and obscure who are creating a more sustainable world through their work. Meet more Change Makers here.

More on Greenpeace:
Green Glossary: Greenpeace
Score Your Electronics with Greenpeace's Updated Scorecard
Stop the Sniffles (and Deforestation) with Greenpeace's Recycled Tissue and Toilet Paper Guide

 
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