#111 Valerie Rockefeller, Co-chair BankFWD & Chairs the Rockefeller Brothers Fund

Valerie Rockefeller chairs the board of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a private
foundation advancing social change that contributes to a more just, sustainable, and
peaceful world. She also co-chairs BankFWD, a network to persuade banks to phase out
financing for fossil fuel and to lead on climate. Her professional background is as a
middle school special education teacher for adolescents with learning differences and
emotional disabilities. She began her teaching career at Central Park East Secondary
School in East Harlem, New York, and also taught in Australia.

Valerie has a M.Ed. in Special Education from Bank Street College of Education and a
MAT in secondary Social Studies from Columbia University Teachers College. She
majored in International Relations at Stanford University, and worked as a confidential
assistant to Secretary Richard Riley at the U.S. Department of Education during the first
Clinton administration. She also serves as a trustee of Achievement First, the Asian
Cultural Council, Columbia University Teachers College, Greenwich Academy, the
Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.
She was a trustee of Spelman College, and is a member of the Council on Foreign

Valerie lives with her daughters Percy and Lucy and her son Davis in Old Greenwich,

Bigger Than Us Episode 111

This transcription has been lightly edited for readability.

Host Raj Daniels  03:18

So Valerie, I like to open my show by asking my guests the following question. If you were to share something interesting about yourself, what would it be?

Valerie Rockefeller  03:28

Well, interesting is subjective. I will say that something maybe unexpected I’ve found is that I grew up in West Virginia, which people, when they meet me now, are often surprised to hear because first of all, I spend so much time working on climate change issues. And in West Virginia is a place that is along with the rest of Appalachia for its coal production. I actually grew up in the southern part of the state, which is the heart of coal country. And I now work to work on a just transition away from coal. So trying to get us on to renewable energy, which I’d love to talk about some more.

And I also think, frankly, being from West Virginia, you know, it brings out some stereotypes that people don’t think that there are Rockefellers much less rich people in West Virginia, but I love being from there. And I’d say what is probably even more unexpected than me being from West Virginia is that I did my eighth-grade social studies project, I did not win, by the way. But I did, I did make it to the state competition on women coal miners. So it’s interesting when I look back on it that I was, I suppose focused on gender issues, maybe because I do have three brothers, but I’m not focused on any of the other sort of social or economic or environmental impacts of coal. I mean, literally from where I grew up, I grew up on the Kenai River and you could, so there is a road and then the river which had coal barges going on it. And then on the other side of the river where the train tracks where you saw the coal cars going by there, so very much a coal country person.

Host Raj Daniels  05:11

I know, I’m asking you to go back in your memory a little bit. But what was the most interesting thing you learned about women coal miners?

Valerie Rockefeller  05:18

How incredibly hard it was for them. There were two at the time in the state. It’s a very well paying job, which is, which is part of the complexity of transitioning away from coal. But not surprisingly, a very macho field and going down in those coal mines, by the way, I was never allowed to do that I wanted to, is very dangerous, and dirty and miserable, and hot and scary. But the jobs pay so well, that I think I was into it.

Host Raj Daniels  05:54

That is interesting, and I appreciate you sharing that. So I’m gonna switch gears here. Can you give the audience an overview of BankFWD and your role at the organization?

Valerie Rockefeller  06:05

Yes, thank you. I am a co-chair and co-founder of BankFWD with two of my cousins, just to back up a little bit. So there are lots of Rockefellers everywhere but the branch of the family that we are sort of define ourselves by are the John D Rockefeller Jr. offspring. John D. Rockefeller Sr. was the first one and the one who made the money from Standard Oil. He actually retired when he was young 49, he was even a year or two younger than I am when he retired from building Standard Oil and then spent the rest of his life in philanthropy.

There are 300 of us now who were descended from John D. Rockefeller Jr., and meet twice a year and are connected personally but largely through philanthropy. And their existing Rockefeller organizations with which I’m also involved in would like in particular talk about the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, but we realized it was time for a new initiative, which is BankFWD focused on climate finance. And that came out of realizing that even though the family has spent many generations fighting for environmental preservation, climate change policy in the last few decades, and are in a more productive and scientifically based climate change policies, we have not yet begun to address how money that our family holds in primarily JPMorgan Chase, but a few other banks as well, is invested in the lending that those banks are doing to fossil fuel companies that in fact, is undermining the rest of the work that we do through our individual work, or individual philanthropy but also in some of the collective philanthropy and work that we do as a family.

So my I am from one branch of the family, the John branch of the family, and two of my cousins, Danny Growald, who is from the David branch of the family, and Peter Gill Case, who is from the Laurance Rockefeller branch of the family started this new initiative, which is designed to build a network of individuals and families and other bank clients who want to use our collective influence to encourage banks to not only phase out their lending to fossil fuels but to become real leaders in climate responsible, climate-smart, climate supportive lending and underwriting and investing. By the way, we just started in February 2020.

Host Raj Daniels  08:47

So how are you using your influence?

Valerie Rockefeller  08:50

So what we have a little bit of a special advantage with JP Morgan Chase, because it used to be known, in fact, as the Rockefeller Bank, and that was starting from five generations ago, another family when John D. Rockefeller, Jr, wanted to diversify out of fossil fuels and got into banks investing in banks. And so there’s a long historical association with their family. That was most clear when my great uncle David Rockefeller, who is Daniel Growald’s grandfather was the chair and CEO of Chase. So there is a special relationship with a bank for us.

And we also started with JPMorgan Chase, frankly, because they are the leading vendor to fossil fuel companies. And we thought our influence with them is that a lot of us have money there, even if it’s not very much money at this point, that there is the long association as well as the assets. And so we just started asking questions and talking to them. And we’re you know, welcome into conversation with senior leadership around how they could adopt more responsible banking policies, which I would also love to talk about more talking about power alignment with the Paris Goals. But specifically using influence is starting with relationships. So the relationships that we had with them as individuals, the historical relationship that we have with the bank, because of this association with the family. And then from there, we’re talking to other friends of ours and others who became interested in our work, who wanted to also ask questions and help guide the banks, where their clients towards more responsible climate policy.

Host Raj Daniels  10:44

And Valerie, can you please speak to the recent op-ed, you co-authored in the New York Times?

Valerie Rockefeller  10:50

Yes. So thank you. On October 11, we were fortunate to have our op-ed published in the New York Times and got a great response to that because in addition to which lays out not only this historical connection with the bank, and why we have begun working with the bank, with JPMorgan Chase, but also for the opportunity for leadership, not only to have them stop being the global leader in providing funding to fossil fuel companies but also for them to seize this opportunity to be the leader of the future, the bank of the future. That’s why we call ourselves bank forward, we want to be thinking about what banks can be doing to support building a new economy based on renewable energy, and therefore in greater social justice.

So our op-ed, we were delighted to say we got a great response to that, and are encouraging others to sign the pledge, which you can find on our website, www.bankfwd.org. And what the pledge does is it lays out how you can get more engaged with your bank, and help also persuade other banks to compete for your business, if in fact, if you don’t get the response that you want from your bank in terms of aligning their lending policies with the Paris Accord.

Host Raj Daniels  12:16

So I appreciate you sharing that, I’m going to read a quote directly from the website. “To earn the business of the future banks must face climate reality. The prerequisite is a clear commitment and support for fossil fuel companies.” Some listening to his show might question, you know, the last name is, quote, unquote, the elephant in the room. How do you square that dichotomy?

Valerie Rockefeller  12:40

Well, dichotomy is a nice, objective, objective term. We’ve been accused of being hypocritical and the great irony of us leading this effort, but in fact, the Rockefeller family, there are seven generations of us now. And it was John D. Rockefeller Sr. who got involved, you know, began with oil. And the reason he got into it because at that time, they were getting petroleum from whales, which was inefficient and obviously cruel. And he’s so digging the, you know, digging fossil fuels out of the ground, getting oil out of the ground, that felt actually quite scientifically advanced and reasonable to be doing at the time.

And now though, we know that we can no longer afford to be polluting our planet and to be changing our climate, through getting our energy this way. We’ve actually known this since the 70s. And the family has been working since John D. Rockefeller, Jr. began building buying up land and then donating it for public parks, so has been working to increase public access to beautiful places. So to preserve them and to share them, not only rich people should have access to nature. And then as the generations went on, and it became more and more clear that we’re going to take policy change to force companies and individuals to make more responsible decisions.

We began working on climate change policy at the sub-national level working with states and towns and globally. So the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which I chair, which has been in existence since 1940, was started by the third generation the Rockefellers works on has been working on climate change policy since the 80s. And also then divested from fossil fuels.

So to get to your question, that is where we decided to embrace the irony that the source of the wealth was oil, but at this point, based on what we know, and based on overwhelming evidence that only 3% of scientists, apparently, were denying climate change. And it is suspicious to me, if you look at the source of their funding, looking at Exxon Mobil, which came out of Standard Oil when the monopoly was broken up, that they were funding scientists to produce different research than what they were doing internally. So internally, they knew about climate change and were preparing for it. But externally, they were funding climate denial campaigns. And science that was misleading, and criminal. They are being sued by several attorneys general. Anyway, that is a little off-topic. But just to say, because the source of the money was in oil, we actually felt like it was our moral responsibility, and also, frankly, a continuation of family tradition to try to address the damage that had been done by the source of the family wealth.

Host Raj Daniels  15:37

You mentioned the word hypocrisy earlier, what are some of the pushback that you receive from your peer group?

Valerie Rockefeller  15:44

You know, interestingly, from our peer group, that can be defined in different ways, of course. So within the Rockefeller family, virtually everyone believes in climate change and is working to help preserve the environment in their own ways. Some people is their day job. Others, it’s through their philanthropy, and others through involvement with the family organizations like Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Rockefeller Family Fund, the David Rockefeller Fund, who also have divested from fossil fuels, and redirected that money into sustainable investments, impact investments that have a measurable social benefit, environmental benefit. But that also provide the returns that we need to keep funding our grantmaking.

And then peer group, you could also look at foundations, you could look at other wealthy families. We model ourselves very explicitly on the global DivestInvest movement, which is a very inclusive movement, with $12 trillion dollars now and assets under management that have pledged to divest from fossil fuels. And again, these are faith communities, governments, individuals, endowments, other nonprofits, universities. So it’s a very inclusive movement. If you want to say who your peers are, for us, I guess I would say it’s anyone who wants to think through the impact of their decisions. So not only their shopping decisions and their professional decisions and how they choose to live but also how they choose to bank and invest if you really think through the impact of those decisions. I think that’s our peer group. And so some people think that we’re not going far enough.

Some people maybe think that we are asking too much to ask the banks to phase out of funding fossil fuels. But we all know one thing, and that is that we have very little time. We’re down to nine years now before we are in an irreversible course towards yet more climate chaos, more climate refugees, there are currently 60 million, and just climate catastrophes. And we’ve seen this already, Raj, now I’m sorry, I’ve gone way off the rails of the focus of your question. But we’ll just say, there’s so much evidence that I don’t know who could deny the effects of climate change. At this point it’s just, is everyone doing what they can to start to counteract the effects to align with Paris, by which I mean, committing to a pathway whereby we limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius? And even at 2%? Some people thought that was that would be okay, it’s actually not okay, that still condemns some island nations and some lower-lying places, where they already are suffering so much to utter devastation.

Host Raj Daniels  18:42

So going back to the banks for a moment, you know, without giving the bank’s ultimatums? How are you encouraging the banks to do the right thing?

Valerie Rockefeller  18:51

Well, encouraging them to do the right thing is showing them what the risks they’re facing are. That’s what banks do is assess risk. And so not only do we as clients care about our money, and keeping our money and growing our money. We see investments in fossil fuel companies as enormously risky. I mean, despite the fact that there have been $500 trillion in fossil fuel subsidies over the last 10 years, energy companies have been the worst performers on the S&P over the last 10 years. And so, you know, it’s not only that science can’t wait, that science has shown us that we are destroying our planet.

And slowly you’re slowly seeing the effects of climate change that are only going to increase with time. The higher the temperature goes, the more rapid the feedback loop is, and the greater the damages. Not only that, we’re seeing that we have to use the banks to invest in clean energy. And so they are the ones who can figure out how they want to assess the financial risk of their fossil fuel investments, which, of course, is the price of the stock of these companies, if they’re investing in a company, is tied to the value of the reserves, we know there’s a carbon budget, we can’t burn all the carbon that has already been discovered.

So any money that’s going into further infrastructure and exploration is just throwing good money after bad. But the banks know how to assess that risk. And the banks also know how to figure out what the more appropriate investments for them would be. COVID has been awful in so many ways. And it is only a glimpse of what it’s going to be like when the entirely predictable systemic risk of climate change, when those full effects are felt.

So really, what we’re asking banks to do is to think in their own financial best interest, which is to be making safer investments, and also, frankly, to be competing for the best talent. I mean, young people do not want to go work for any company, much less a bank, that is funding dirty energy. They simply don’t. They want to work in places that feel consistent with their values, and where they feel like they’re addressing what younger generations do appreciate is the greatest risk of our time. And so to overcome, not only the risk of losing clients who want to have their money pointed towards the future, they have they are facing the risk of losing the best staff.

Host Raj Daniels  21:35

So you mentioned clients and individuals, what can individuals and families do to align with you on this mission?

Valerie Rockefeller  21:43

We have a lot of information up on our website. One thing that I really enjoy about working on climate is and working in impact investing, which again, is investing in the solutions for the future, is the transparency and accountability. So we are putting up as much material as we possibly can. And we are collecting information on different banks to help us educate ourselves and others about what their banks are doing, and what questions they can ask. So again, to go to our website, bankfwd.org, to find those resources, and also to find the pledge that we’re asking everyone to consider. And that is to start asking questions. I mean, even initiating the conversation with your financial adviser can be very influential. There are definitely and we have talked to them—there are definitely people within these banks.

Again, we started with JP Morgan Chase because of our association, but also because JP Morgan Chase is by far the worst in terms of funding fossil fuels since the Paris Agreement was signed at the end of 2015. Starting in 2016, there have been 35 leading banks who have invested in fossil fuel energy, when they should have been moving away from it because, at that point, we were very clear on what the science was dictating. Despite all that, they put another $2.7 trillion into fossil fuels. JPMorgan Chase is the leading funder and is 36% ahead, provided 36% more financing than Wells Fargo did. So that’s why we’re targeting them.

Anyway, engage, ask the questions. Ask why they’re still financing fossil fuels. Ask them if they have looked at their own operations, not only the carbon footprint that they have, from, you know, literally running their buildings and where they’re sourcing their energy but really looking at then the later effects of the carbon that’s being emitted and the damage that’s being done through projects that they’re funding. So ask them for those metrics and hold them accountable for how are you aligning with the parent schools, there are a lot of resources out there for banks to look at. Some banks have taken some significant steps forward to green, their own operations and to green their investments. And so just to keep pushing them to do that. We also would love to have people give us their names and as much information as they’re comfortable sharing with us so that we can keep in touch.

And then finally, to really consider switching to another bank if you are not successful in getting your bank to change its practices.

We see investments in fossil fuel companies as enormously risky. I mean, despite the fact that there have been $500 trillion in fossil fuel subsidies over the last 10 years, energy companies have been the worst performers on the S&P over the last 10 years.

Host Raj Daniels  24:25

And I’ll put links to your site in the show notes. I appreciate that. So, Valerie, how can people access the toolkit that you provide?

Valerie Rockefeller  24:37

Well, at some point we will be making this public and open we’re still keeping a lot of the information confidential as we continue to engage with JPMorgan Chase. And as we continue to build our network. But if you do sign the pledge, then you get access to our toolkit because the last thing anyone needs is more work to do. And so we have put up model letters of just questions that you can ask your financial advisors in ways that you can educate yourself about what a meaningful response from them is. Sometimes it can be really hard to figure out what a bank when they’re talking about all the Clean Energy investing that they are doing to really understand if it’s legitimate, and also in comparison to the dirty energy investing that they’re doing. If it is significant, you know, is it something that is basically you just doing for marketing purposes? Or is it something that you’re doing because you are truly committed to the new clean energy economy?

Host Raj Daniels  25:39

So, Valerie, I’m going to make a hard right turn here and get to the crux of our conversation, which is the why behind what you’re doing. Obviously, you’re extremely committed to this movement. But why and what keeps you continuously motivated?

Valerie Rockefeller  25:51

I am committed to this movement, partially out of guilt, I cannot deny that. And you know, Brené Brown has the whole home the whole incredibly interesting and important, I think, take on guilt versus shame, that shame is not productive, because it’s shame about who you just end up making you bitter and insecure. But guilt is about your actions.

So although I was not one of the ones who was digging oil out of the ground or negotiating with the railroads and everything that John D Rockefeller Sr. did, I have benefited from that wealth. It’s very similar to the whole fascinating, important movement that we have going on now around racial justice. And that just that realization that you have to be anti-racist, you can’t just say you’re not racist, you have to be working to acknowledge the privilege that those of us who are white have been able to take advantage of, even unknowingly, and then begin to address that to try to bring more justice to people who have been discriminated against and who are suffering.

So guilt specifically around what my privilege comes from. And also because so much of my time, my actually my professional background is as a middle school special education teacher, I got into climate work much later into my in my life. But just everyone who is part of this, realizing there is a lot that we can do. So there’s just so much hope too.

So not only that, we have the Rockefeller families under a special moral obligation to do this. Really everyone because the time is so short, it is essential that everyone turn their resources towards building a better future.

And Raj, I know you’ve worked in different you know, private sector nonprofits, I think these sectors are not as distinct as they used to be, especially when it comes to sustainable investing that what you can be investing in something you can be giving to philanthropically, you know, we all need to work together, we all need to seek, of course, government regulation. It is right now, an excuse that a lot are using. We’re waiting for government regulation. We can’t wait anymore. We all need to be advocating for climate responsible policies, and supporting politicians who respect the economic development opportunities, as well as the scientific urgency of switching to a new economy, and switching to renewable energy specifically. But we all need to be thinking about our motivations that are both maybe negative, what we’re not going to do that is damaging anymore, but also thinking about the opportunity and the positivity around it, that we really can make change just through simple individual consumer decisions, your banking decisions, and also frankly, really finding your voice as an advocate.

Host Raj Daniels  29:02

So you said so many things there. First of all, let me go back to Bren Brown. I’m a big fan. And I agree about chambering nonproductive, you know, you mentioned, nonprofit and for profit. And I’m a firm believer that nothing happens in silos, we like nature are all interconnected, whether we recognize it or not. So I think that’s a really important point to point out. And regarding the policy, and, yes, I agree that it’s too late to have to continue having conversations and we need to lean more into action than just talking about it.

Valerie Rockefeller  29:33

Yes. And there’s a joy piece of it too. You know that there is a certain satisfaction that comes from thinking you’re doing good for the world. And there’s a true joy that comes when you find that you’re making decisions and living a life that feels sort of authentic to you that makes you feel like you’re an integral part of a meaningful whole. And also just this should be a motivation for everything. I just love the people that I work with, and I learned so much all the time, and I also love, I grew up in politics, my father was a politician. And this is much less, it was much less polarized then than it is now. But you can get into that sort of good versus evil, binary way of thinking when you’re in politics. And something that I love about the climate change movement is there are incredibly responsible investment bankers, and there are incredibly brilliant indigenous leaders looking at the renewal of forest and agriculture for carbon capture, and for more sustainable types of agriculture. There are wonderful people everywhere, who are all working towards the same goals, just in their different ways. And we have so much to learn from each other. And that just brings a real joy and pleasure to the movement.

It is right now, an excuse that a lot are using. We’re waiting for government regulation. We can’t wait anymore. We all need to be advocating for climate responsible policies, and supporting politicians who respect the economic development opportunities, as well as the scientific urgency of switching to a new economy, and switching to renewable energy specifically.

Host Raj Daniels  30:54

I feel like there’s a place in the movement for everyone.

Valerie Rockefeller  30:57

There has to be, there absolutely has to be I agree. I like your holistic way of looking at things. I mean, we really are an ecosystem in every way. And it’s when we’re in denial of that, that we get out of balance. And then people get scared, and they cling on to what they have. And I think that that is why it’s so important. Something I mentioned earlier, this sort of just transition concept, where it’s not that we want to just close down the coal mines. No, we want to provide better, safer jobs for miners. And there’s one company actually that I personally invest in, in West Virginia called Solar Holler. And their tagline is mine the sun because that’s what it is. The resources of the future, and the good jobs and the growth that’s coming from solar companies.

The number of coal miners has been declining ever since the year I was born. The height was the 1950s. And that’s from mechanization, as well as from more realization of the environmental damage. And frankly, just it’s so much cheaper to do solar and other renewables. I don’t need to tell you that the International Energy Agency came out with a report saying that they think renewables will be 80% of the energy sector, just looking at all current factors and conditions. So, you know, to make money to get jobs to be realistic about what we need to do, you need to be moving away from fossil fuels.

Host Raj Daniels  32:23

Couldn’t agree more. So Valerie, you said you came to the climate change movement late. What’s the most valuable lesson that you’ve learned about yourself on this journey?

Valerie Rockefeller  32:33

I learned that I can learn something new. And that is I was one of those incredibly annoying people who knew exactly what I wanted to do. In college, I was tutoring and just decided I wanted to be a teacher and then just always worked in education and always worked for the government and had this very clear path. And I’ve learned that I can be a bit of an entrepreneur, it feels like that starting BankFWD. I’ve never started anything before. And just that’s very different decisions that you have to make in different kinds of pressures, even starting a nonprofit, which of course, BankFWD is. And I’ve learned that I can talk about money and investing, things that I never talked about growing up, and didn’t talk about in the classroom with my students.

I suppose I’ve learned that we all have to be open-minded about who we are and what we do and where we can add value. I could not have predicted, my parents always said to me, when you look back over your life, things will make sense. And that is true. But there’s still no way I can look forward and predict what’s going to come next.

Host Raj Daniels  33:41

Well, let’s talk about forward. You have a magic wand 2025 your perfect vision of BankFWD, what does it look like?

Valerie Rockefeller  33:49

That we would have gone out of business in 2021, or 2022. And that is because once we see that there has been enough change in the banks. And we really do believe in the power of networks. Again, families like ours, individual clients, anyone who is banking at a US bank, we’re just focused on the US at this point, Europe is actually quite far ahead of the United States in terms of their regulations and their bank policies. Although they still have a lot of progress still to make. We hope that banks have turned themselves around and have phased out fossil fuels and have committed to do so, have plans to do so, have metrics for along the way to 2030 to show how they are going to half their emissions by then. And so we won’t need to exist because the banks are going to be competing with each other to be the most climate responsible and to be making the wisest investments in solar, wind, whatever renewables or other sources of energy that could have been devised by 2025.

So by 2025, we should see the fruits of what we’re already beginning to see now, which are banks making commitments to, for instance, all banks, except for Bank of America, that they’re no longer going to fund drilling in the Arctic. here’s something called PCAF, whereby banks can measure their own carbon output, and then disclose these metrics of what they are investing in lending to underwriting. And then we have comparable information between banks about who really is being most responsible for climate. There are a lot of banks that are saying that they’re no longer going to invest in coal, which is, you know, sort of easy to say, because it’s been declining for so long, but it is still meaningful that they’re doing that. And we hope that there are other business alliances, I know some of the interviews that you have done have been with people who are encouraging business coalitions to, to sort of spur each other on to adopt best practices, and to adopt more common metrics. So we really can compare which companies we want to shop with, and whose stock we want to buy. The momentum is there, the momentum is definitely there.

Host Raj Daniels  36:11

Well, I don’t think I’ve said this before, but I look forward to you putting yourself out of business.

Valerie Rockefeller  36:15

Yes. Thank you, thank you, we will, I promise, we will find something else to just stay meaningfully occupied. But we are hoping that this is where competition works. That the banks are increasingly going to realize, as there are many signs of evidence that they already are, that they have to shift their practices, and that they are going to be doing what they do best, which is making wise investment decisions and running their operations efficiently.

Host Raj Daniels  36:48

So Valerie, last question. And this could be professional or personal, you could be speaking to families that have assets under control or individuals. But if you could share some advice or words of wisdom with the audience, what would it be.

Valerie Rockefeller  37:02

My words of wisdom coming largely from my children. My kids are 11, 13, and 15. I can’t get away with anything without pushback or challenge. And it’s actually a great way to live. And I always taught middle school because I love this. And those kids do, they have no filter, and they just observe. So pretend that you’re living with a bunch of adolescents all the time who are questioning you, and just know every decision that you make everything that you do, it says something about you. When you’re really thinking through what you’re doing and saying carefully, you start to live more authentically, and you can enjoy yourself more. There’s a certain freedom and total honesty and transparency. And just respect—that’s what environmentalism is based on—respect for the ecosystem respect for future generations, respect for other species. And so if you live your life as openly as possible that way, you know, ideally, actually, don’t think of yourself surrounded by adolescents, because I think most people don’t find that so appealing. But just think about trying to live your full truth. And it’s very hard to do, I’m certainly not there yet myself. But you actually become happier, it doesn’t mean that you live a more austere life, or that you are ashamed of what you’re doing, it actually just leads you to better decisions that just feel more like two expressions of who you want to be and who you really are deep down.

Host Raj Daniels  38:31

And that advice resonates deeply with me. I have three children, one that is in middle school. And I had a mentor tell me many years ago before I even had kids, he said, Raj, if you ever have kids, keep this in mind that, forget what you say, they’ll watch what you do. And yes, I always feel like I have these pairs of eyes on me all the time, just kind of watching my actions. And it does kind of push me to be as true to myself as possible. But also show them in what I call it, I call it dancing in public. And what I mean by that example, this podcast is that, you know, let’s try to live as aligned to our, you know, mission as possible in private and in public.

Valerie Rockefeller  39:09

Yes. And keep the humor in it. Just when I think I’m so virtuous. My kids are calling me hip and not like they think I’m cool. Like they think I’m such a hypocrite. There’s got to be certain humor and all of it and always room for continued growth.

When you’re really thinking through what you’re doing and saying carefully, you start to live more authentically, and you can enjoy yourself more. There’s a certain freedom and total honesty and transparency. And just respect—that’s what environmentalism is based on—respect for the ecosystem respect for future generations, respect for other species.

Host Raj Daniels  39:24

I agree. Valerie, Valerie, thank you so much for your time today. Is there anything else you’d like to share before we go?

Valerie Rockefeller  39:31

Just that everyone can find a way of being involved in the movement. If climate finance is not important to you, or if you’re pleased with a bank that you have, there is a role for everyone. There are so many organizations out there and so many ways to get involved. Either if you’re interested in policy, if you’d like to have that more intellectual exercise, there’s work that you can do in politics. And if you’re interested in getting your hands literally dirty, there’s so many community gardens and you can encourage your school to develop a garden. There’s so many educational opportunities, there is something else I’m part of that the Aspen Institute started called K12 Climate Action. And that is really how to turn schools around just through contracts with bussing companies, again, community gardens, school gardens, curriculum. There’s so many ways—school lunches— there’s so many ways to get involved, that we can help turn this world around to be the future that we know we can achieve. 


Before we go, I’m excited to share that we’ve launched the Bigger Than Us comic strip, The Adventures of Mira and Nexi.

If you like our show, please give us a rating and review on iTunes. And you can show your support by sharing our show with a friend or reach out to us on social media where you can find us at our Nexus PMG handle.

If there’s a subject or topic you’d like to hear about, send Raj Daniels an email at BTU@NexusPMG.com or contact me via our website, NexusPMG.com. While you’re there, you can sign up for our monthly newsletter where we share what we’re reading and thinking about in the cleantech green tech sectors.

Raj Daniels