Ladies and gentlemen your friendly neighborhood Greenius has hit the wall. I am dog tired.
And I’m cranky – angry even – I’ve got no patience left.
My lips no longer pucker to kiss politicians ass and I find that I can no longer suffer fools gladly.
I need a break, right now, before I snap.
So I’m finally taking one.
A year-long one.
A #YearOfJoe sabbatical.
Starting on my 60th birthday next month.
I’ve been talking about doing this for a long time now – ever since my colleagues at 350.org began taking 3 month long sabbaticals a few years ago and the whole notion of a sabbatical hit my radar screen. But it seemed pretty impossible once I became The Godfather of Community Choice Power in Los Angeles County – The Big Green Mafia Don as the wing nut fossil fuel lovers dubbed me.
I told everyone, that of course, I wouldn’t take all that time off, and I certainly couldn’t start in September, just because that’s when my birthday was. Especially not right now since we’re in crunch time when cities have to make their decisions, with the County pushing hard and pulling out all the stops to get all our South Bay Clean Power cities to join the County’s program (even though the County’s numbers don’t add up and their plan is the same old consultants’ scam, and dishonest politicians and their cronies are blowing smoke every time they open their mouthes, and who else but me could possibly stop them and make things right?) So, no way was I taking a year off. Maybe one day off every weekend, I decided.
Except my soul and spirit rebelled and I suddenly reached the exact moment where I just stopped giving a shit.
Completely and sweepingly.
About all of it.
The time came when I smelled the coffee and looked at myself and said to myself,
“What the fuck am I doing? This isn’t even close to being a level playing field. Why am I killing myself doing this work? No one else cares as much as I do. No one else is going to step up and become a leader. I’m not going to get the help or support I need in time to make this any easier and I’m starting to hate people because of it. Plus my eyesight’s failing and I’m so angry all the time I’m about to have a heart attack. Did I mention that we are also as doomed as doomed can be when it comes to a livable climate and none of what I’ve been working on is going to stop that or even slow it down? So stick a fork in me because I’m done.”
And just like that I made my decision and in less than one week I turned over all my projects to other people – with glee! And no one complained or bitched that I hadn’t done enough or that I was leaving too early. To the contrary, people cheered my decision and supported me. Imagine that. They already knew what it had taken me all this time to grok – that I had nothing left to prove to anyone. That I had left it all on the field and that I wasn’t letting anyone down or not living up to expectations. That it was not just okay to take the time off, it was, in fact, admirable and maybe a little inspiring to others.
I have been fighting for truth, justice and the American way at a patriot’s pace and while it may be true that I am half-man and half-amazing, I am not Superman. Hell I’m not even Ironman – which is why I take the Vitamin D.
What I am and have been for over 20 years is a work dog. 7 days a week, night and day. I have prided myself on my ability to outwork everyone else and deliver top quality results and I have done exactly that for a long, long time now.
I dropped out of college after 3 months and went to work. I had no family connections, inheritance or trust fund. No family business. Never had a mentor. Nobody took me under their wing. Except my wife Debra. She’s always had my back and faith in me.
I came to California in 1976 to be an actor and quickly discovered that I had a face for writing. Wrote eight screenplays no one wanted to turn into movies, but kept studying and developing my talents as a writer and kept plugging away. My wife’s boss gave me a job as a magazine editor for the American Portrait Society in 1981, and I became known in the figurative art world which was a blast while it lasted. When the Society went belly up Debra and I were both out of work for way too long. So I wrote some more screenplays and began developing TV sitcoms that nobody wanted to produce either.
That’s when I also started doing radio commentaries for KLON FM-88 in Long Beach, then an NPR affiliate. When I spoke out against the home-porting of the battleship Missouri with its nuclear tomahawk cruise missile arsenal, the folks at the Alliance for Survival called and asked me, “Do you just talk about stuff or do you DO anything too?” A few months later I was the Chairperson of the Coalition for a Nuclear Free Harbor and organizing rallies and street actions. My life as a Community Organizer had begun and I jumped in wholeheartedly – even obsessively some might say. I was also out of work and broke.
Once again, Debra to the rescue. After she got a job at Mattel in 1985 she got me a shot at a temp job as an $8 an hour “board turner” in the Samples Department at the original Mattel building in Hawthorne. I didn’t just work at Mattel, I went to the University of Mattel and learned the toy business from the bottom up – literally as I started with tasks like sweeping the basement storage lockers after taking inventory, and running boxes of one-of-a-kind prototype toy samples from one building to another for photo shoots and commercials, and driving trucks to Arizona for the Pre-Toy Fair events.
Mattel was the place that taught me the value of hard work and performing when the spotlight was on me and the money was on the table. There was no job I wouldn’t do and when the opportunity came to write $50 a story one-minute long 900# telephone call-in stories (“Hey kids, don’t forget to ask your parents permission!”) for Barbie and Hot Wheels and He-Man I jumped at it and did outstanding work. I had found my niche.
Before I knew it I was writing speeches, presentations and special events for Mattel’s CEO and Division Presidents, scripting much of New York Toy Fair, creative directing all the company’s award shows, and even hosting shows on behalf of the company on stage in tuxedos and on the roof of the building in a Barbie pink sport coat. I wound up inventing a hit toy for Mattel’s boys toys division (the Street Sharks) that saw life as an animated TV show and 50 different licensed products.
In my spare time I partnered with my best friend and favorite graphic artist to create and launch The Parks Company in 1997 to Preserve, Protect and Promote America’s National Parks. We created the first ever catalog of National Park products and donated money to park projects all across the Country with our “Every Sale Supports the Parks” program.
I also kept working for major corporate clients as a writer, creative director, brand strategist and subject matter expert. My clients included HP, Universal Pictures, Washington Mutual, Sony, 20th Century Fox, Tyco Toys, Tangle Toys, Playmates Toys and others who kept me busy year round. I was happy to be in such demand and to be making such a good living. I got there by never turning a job down, working 16 hours a day, 7 days a week and by being the best there was at what I did.
10 years ago in 2007 when I tuned 50 I decided that I had made enough money doing work I then considered disposable. I knew that even with The Parks Company, I needed to give more back. Having seen “Inconvenient Truth” the year before I was driven to work on climate change and related environmental issues. I knew I had to devote my skills and time to learning everything I could, to volunteering with all the nonprofits doing the work on the ground, to using my writing and verbal talents to getting the word out and to accepting my responsibility to take a leadership role.
That’s exactly what I did, going to work for the South Bay Environmental Services Center, GRID Alternatives and of course 350.org for whom I founded and organized South Bay 350 Climate Action Group. I attended Council meetings and Board of Supervisors meetings and AQMD meetings and every other kind of environmental meeting I could. I began writing my Creative Greenius blog and soon earned press credentials for topics like electric vehicles and financing of renewable energy projects. That led to my writing the environmental columns for Hermosa Beach Patch, Manhattan Beach Patch and Redondo Beach Patch.
I helped found the South Bay Bicycle Coalition, helped win the $250,000 grant from the LA County Health Department and worked with the rest of the Board to get the 7-city Master Bicycle Plan passed. During that same period I also worked with members of the community to create the Hermosa Beach Carbon Neutral City initiative.
I developed my environmental knowledge and skills to the point where I was hired as the Director of Strategic Partnerships and Public Affairs for CBS EcoMedia and spent two years traveling across the USA working with the most respected and effective nonprofits as I helped to fund environmental, wellness and education projects.
In 2014 I returned to pro bono work and began working on bringing Community Choice Power to first our South Bay cities, then Westside cities and then the entire County of Los Angeles – and beyond.
And now it’s ten full years since
I made my commitment to work on climate action. I’ve done my best work over this past decade and gotten better and better at what I do.
And yet I never felt that I did enough. I never ended a single day thinking we had reached a milestone that allowed for taking some serious time off. Because no matter now much I do, the climate just keeps getting worse and worse.
And so I’m joyfully bowing out post haste. Because among other things, the next ten years are the best ten years left. And because there are still special places I want to see while they’re still worth seeing, before they are spoiled.
And because I have lost sight of who I am and what I do when I’m not working on renewable energy campaigns or ending the use of fossil fuels campaigns or switching to Electric Vehicles campaigns.
I’ve been one of the very fortunate few – mostly privileged white folks like me – who get to follow their passion and I’m grateful and appreciative for that.
But right now my passion for the work is at pilot flame level and it generates no heat. So before it goes out completely forever, I’m headed for the mountains and the woods and the lake and Hawaii too.
I’ve got National Parks in Oregon and Washington state to see. I’ve never been to British Columbia or Vancouver or Vancouver Island or the Canadian Rockies. And I’ve got friends to see, and guitar lessons to take and a novel to write.
And a lot more life to live during #YearOfJoe – and beyond.