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Member of the Month: Chris Roberts

This month, we interviewed SanDiego350 volunteer Chris Robert to share about their climate activism. Chris is co-lead of the Transportation Team and participates in the Microtransit Subteam and is also part of the research group for the KEEP THE LAW campaign for the referendum on SB 1137, the oil well setback law. He and his colleagues produced an FAQ to be used as background info for folks who are giving presentations to community groups.

How did you first get involved with SD350, and when was that?

I retired in June of 2023, after working for >25 years in pharmaceutical drug research, and so was looking for volunteer opportunities. Kat Tessaro, a friend and SD350 volunteer, recommended that I get involved with SD350. I had my initial call with Rita Clement on January 19.

What drives your activism?

As a Baby Boomer, I am appalled at the horrible condition that we have left the planet for future generations. There has been strong scientific consensus since the 1980s that GHGs were heating the planet and that this would have dramatic negative effects on the world’s climate, and over the decades we have done essentially nothing about it. As a scientist and a human being with a brain, I take this very personally, and so when I retired, I wanted to volunteer for a climate justice organization like SD350. I’m sorry that I didn’t get involved sooner.

What do you recommend to people who want to have a larger impact through the environmental movement? What do you prioritize in your own activism?

Don’t wait for retirement to get involved in climate action / climate justice! A compelling aspect of volunteering with SD350 is that it’s self-regulating, you can do as much as you have time for. There’s no reason not to get involved ASAP, and doing small things, like sending a message to an elected official, or signing a petition, has an impact that’s infinitely larger than doing nothing! And once you get the satisfaction of doing small things, before you know it, you’re volunteering for larger projects.

My priorities in volunteering with SD350 started with the fact that I’m an avid bicyclist, and so every day I’m on the road with an endless stream of single occupancy vehicles. My initial goal was to work to promote transit solutions that reduce the number of cars on the road, which I’ve learned since joining SD350 means reducing VMTs. I’ve also found that it’s fun and rewarding to participate in direct action events, such as the SEMPRA protest on May 9. When I joined, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to participate in events close to downtown San Diego, but I’ve learned that it’s easy to bike the 8 miles from my house to a trolley stop at UCSD then take my bike on the trolley.

Is there anything else you would like people to know about you? Any fun facts?

I’m originally from Iowa, moved to Eugene OR in 1984 for grad school where I met my wife Laura and had our first son Nick (who’s a med student in NYC). In 1995 we moved to Seattle where we had our second son Danny (who’s finishing his MS in Aero/Astro engineering at UW in Seattle), then in 2009 my job relocated to Boston, so we moved to Newton MA. In 2019 we moved to Carmel Valley, and we don’t plan to move across the country again. I bicycle almost every day of the year, >10,000 miles/year for the past 10 years. Since retiring I’ve started swimming with a masters group at a pool on Torrey Pines, and I also swim at La Jolla Cove. I’ve become obsessed with birding so I’m often lugging around a large camera and binoculars while biking. And occasionally on Monday evenings Laura and I go to Winston’s in Ocean Beach to dance to a Grateful Dead cover band, the Electric Waste Band.