Editor’s note: For this edition of 10 questions, The California Aggie spoke with Davis resident Kemble Pope, who created the website “Davis Voice.” Pope is involved with various local environmental organizations, including Climate Action Team, a city-sponsored group that is developing sustainability standards for the city of Davis. He is also on the Open Space and Habitat Commission, which advises the Davis city council on issues such as wildlife habitats and agricultural land conservation.
Why did you found davisvoice.com?
About nine months ago, I felt that there was a lot of negative commentary about people’s motivations and such for being involved [in the community] and taking certain positions.… I thought that it would be better to focus on the more positive aspects of why people are involved in this community.
What motivates you to be involved in environmental activism?
[Laughs] Well, it’s Davis. You’re not a good Davisite unless you are involved. My passion and academic background is really environmentalism but I never really found a professional way to fulfill that.
As a Climate Action Team member, what kinds of activities are you involved in?
Probably the most interesting one that I’ve researched personally is Styrofoam recycling. Most people think that the best way to deal with that is to just ban Styrofoam from restaurants, [as used in] takeout boxes, but in reality that’s only about 2 percent of the Styrofoam that is created.… Most Styrofoam comes from packaging.
The thought is if you ban Styrofoam, then whatever the packing material that you replace it with will probably be worse for the environment in the long run. So there is this new technology [called Styromelt] to recycle Styrofoam by melting it down.
What changes have you seen as a result of your involvement in the Open Space and Habitat Commission?
There is one very big one. We have a 2:1 agricultural mitigation rate now…. We are basically creating an [agricultural] buffer zone around our community through development.
How does one get involved in these two organizations?
This September all of the commissions have open seats, so you just go to the city of Davis website and go to the commissions homepage, you’ll find a link there to how to apply. Climate Action Team is full and it is just an ad hoc committee, we are only together until we finish this project.… All [other commissions] have open seats and it rotates every two years.
It is a common belief that the actions of one individual can only make a negligible impact on the globe. How do you feel about that?
I prefer to think of the story about the butterfly’s wings. The butterfly’s wings, [with] that little bit of movement, can influence [those] around them and that influence grows and grows and grows. So I don’t think my actions necessarily have that much effect on the globe as a whole, but I hope that my actions do affect others around me to create more actions, and collectively we can make a difference.
What advice would you give to students who share your concerns pertaining to the environment?
I would say get involved in groups on campus. There are lots of groups on campus. The Campus Center for the Environment is kind of a clearinghouse [of environmental groups on campus].
Every single one of those organizations is all about leadership. They are only going to be as effective as their leadership.
You also work as a public relations consultant. What kind of work does that entail?
I have various clients [such as] high technology, innovative green technology events like Celebrate UCDavis [and] land conservation. [This includes] outreach to their stakeholders [and] community members – I write press releases, I help write op-eds, [as well as] advise [clients] on marketing, materials and websites.
What drew you to Davis?
I was taking some classes at the extension program … and just fell in love with the town. I can ride my bike everywhere in town; it’s easy to be involved. People are concerned about what goes on in this community and that appeals to me.
If you could fix any global problem, what would it be?
I would say equal access to what I believe are inalienable rights. So we started off by saying in this country that everyone should have access to justice, habeas corpus [and happiness]. Later we said that everyone should have access to public education. I believe everyone on this planet should not only have those but also have access to health care, energy, clean water and housing.
SARA JOHNSON can be reached at email@example.com.