Infinite Earth Radio – weekly conversations with leaders building smarter, more sustainable, and equitable communities

Infinite Earth Radio is a weekly podcast produced by Skeo and the Local Government Commission and hosted by Mike Hancox and Vernice Miller-Travis. Each week they interview visionary leaders, dedicated government officials, savvy businesses and forward thinking individuals who are working to build smarter, more equitable, sustainable, and prosperous communities through social and economic inclusion that values the contribution of all citizens and seeks meaningful lives for everyone. You will discover new leading edge strategies for lifting up and building great 21st century communities, along with cutting edge strategies for revitalizing under resourced communities and empowering excluded populations. Smart Growth, Prosperity and Sustainability are not possible without social, civic, and economic inclusion for people of all economic, social, and racial backgrounds.
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Infinite Earth Radio – weekly conversations with leaders building smarter, more sustainable, and equitable communities



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Now displaying: November, 2016
Nov 24, 2016

In This Episode:

02:09 Paul Johnson is introduced.
02:46 Paul tells about his journey and how he personally became involved in the CivicSpark Encore program.
04:47 Paul gives details about the Encore program.
06:52 Paul shares how an Encore fellow is funded and who supports the program.
07:40 Paul describes what makes a good candidate for the program.
08:44 Paul answers the question of what a nonprofit needs so that it would make sense to get an Encore fellow.
18:58 Paul tells where nonprofits or late-career professionals can go to learn more about the Encore program.
11:31 Paul explains how the encore program overlaps with the CivicSpark program.
12:47 Paul talks about the work that he’s done as a fellow working with agencies or organizations.
15:16 Paul comments on the chance to interact with and mentor CivicSpark fellows.
16:54 Paul conveys the lessons that he’s learned while doing this work.
17:57 Does Paul see himself continuing this work?
18:46 Paul provides one change that would lead to smarter, more sustainable, and more equitable communities.
19:34 Paul states the action that listeners can take to help build a more equitable and sustainable future.
21:21 Paul discusses what the Encore program looks like 15 or 20 years from now.


Paul Johnson is the President of Paul Everett Johnson and Associates (PEJ), a small business that provides consulting services to develop successful self-sustaining clean energy programs. Paul has over 40 years experience developing and managing clean energy programs and policies in the public, private, and nonprofit sector. During this period, he had 30 years of increased management experience at the US Department of Energy, capped by two years as the Acting Deputy Director of the Seattle Regional Office of DOE. Since 2005, he has served as President of PEJ and conducted a wide variety of consulting projects around the country. From 2007 until 2011, Paul served as the Executive Director of the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization, a non-profit organization focused on increasing the level of clean energy activity in the eight counties of the San Joaquin Valley. For the past few years Paul has worked to develop an Encore Climate Fellows program within the Encore program in several locations in the West to help communities be more resilient to deal with climate change.


Encore Fellowships are designed to deliver a new source of talent to organizations solving critical social problems. These paid, time-limited fellowships match skilled, experienced professionals with social-purpose organizations in high-impact assignments. During the fellowship period (typically six to 12 months, half- to full-time), Fellows take on roles that bring significant, sustained impact to their host organizations. While they are working, Fellows earn a stipend, learn about social-purpose work and develop a new network of contacts and resources for the future.

Take Away Quotes:

“The Encore program is dedicated to leveraging human capital of very seasoned, adult experience to adult professionals to improve communities in this country and around the world…A program like this—strengthening nonprofits right on the front lines of dealing with environmental and climate challenges—it just seemed like a great opportunity, and I jumped into the program and have been working in the program in a number of capacities for about four and a half years.”

“The key component of the program that I work on is the Encore Fellowship Network, which refer to themselves as the proof point for the Encore concept. And the Encore Fellowship Network has been around since 2009, and they currently work with partner organizations in 13 different locations around the U.S. and Canada and match seasoned business leaders into fellowships with nonprofits.”

“The Encore program is partnered with the CivicSpark program. CivicSpark has a team approach that works primarily with AmeriCorps folks that delivers a broad array of efficiency, clean-energy services, climate services to jurisdiction partners in California. Encore provides senior-level, seasoned expertise of people who have had full careers to provide mentoring and support services, leadership, to these AmeriCorps interns. So it provides a complementary piece to CivicSpark, and it provides a really neat example of a multi-generational approach where you have people at the beginning of a clean-energy career, working with people at or near the end of their career to tackle climate and environmental needs of communities.”


Encore Fellowships

Encore Fellowship Network 

Learn More about Encore Climate Fellows

Strategic Energy Innovations


Local Government Commission (LGC)

Nov 17, 2016


Food Justice and Self-Empowerment

In This Episode:

01:35 Justin Garoutte is introduced.
01:57 Justin describes where the Conejos Land Grant Region is and why it is important.
03:05 Justin tells who predominately lives in the region now.
03:25 Justin shares his background and how he came to have the job that he currently has.
04:36 Justin explains if food justice and food security is a big issue in his region.
05:37 Justin relays how receptive people are to growing their own food.
06:24 Justin conveys information about the Conejos Clean Water organization and its background.
07:36 Justin speaks of the things that he’s currently working on.
10:01 Justin expresses how Conejos Clean Water is funded.
10:41 Justin discusses how many people live in his region, the number of acres, and how the overall economy is.
12:10 Is the water from the Valley supplying any other regions?
13:09 Justin discusses if there is any financial support from people downstream.
15:07 Justin shares how people can learn more about his work.
15:33 Justin conveys how people can support his work.
16:38 Justin provides one change that would lead to safer, more sustainable, and more equitable communities.
17:26 Justin states the action that listeners can take to help build a more equitable and sustainable future.
18:02 Justin shares what the Conejos Land Grant Region will look like 30 years from now.


Justin Garoutte is the Executive Director of Conejos Clean Water. Justin is an Antonito native who recently returned home to give back to his community and be closer to family. His family has been farming and ranching in Conejos County for multiple generations. At an early age, he was fascinated with traveling and took the first opportunity to get out and see the world. He was one of sixteen Americans chosen to be a citizen ambassador for the U.S. Department of State LINC Program in Tunisia in 2005. His experience in northern Africa inspired him to study abroad again, and he received a scholarship for a full-year of study in Germany on the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) program.

After returning from Germany and graduating high school, he headed off to Colorado College on scholarships from the Daniels Fund, Hispanic Annual Salute, and CC Presidential Fund. While at Colorado College, he explored his interests, including courses in Native American and Mexican American Literature. After another year abroad in Göttingen, Germany, Justin graduated cum laude with a BA in German Language and Culture in 2012. Immediately after graduating, he embarked on what would turn out to be a three-year journey to Germany and other European countries. While in Germany, he taught English at the University of Bremen and German for high school exchange students from the United States, Thailand, and China. In addition, he returned to Colorado College in 2014 to teach a month-long, intensive German Theatre course and direct Das letzte Feuer, a German theatrical production by Dea Loher.

Upon his latest return from Europe, Justin founded Valleybound, the Antonito School and Community Garden, which serves as an empowering educational space, offering a variety of activities for youth and adults alike. Educating and empowering community remains his main focus. Currently, he coordinates and teaches literacy and healthy choices at Guadalupe Elementary and serves as a mentor to at-risk youth throughout Conejos County.


The mission of Conejos Clean Water (CCW) is to build public awareness and encourage advocacy and education around environmental, social, economic, and food justice issues in the Conejos Land Grant Region. CCW operates under the basic premise that water is our life source; therefore, protecting the water and fostering a healthy environment promotes public health and serves as a natural resource management system. CCW works to protect public health by promoting environmental justice. CCW views the environment as people: where we live, work, play, and learn. CCW views environmental justice as a convergence of civil rights, environmentalism, and public health. Environmental justice is multicultural and multiethnic, it is grassroots, and it increases links to global struggles. Therefore, CCW is focused on social justice and pollution prevention in order to reduce cumulative health impacts from the built, social, political, and natural environment.

Take Away Quotes:

“A lot of the counties here in the San Luis Valley and the Conejos Land Grant Region are, according to median household income, the poorest in the state, and so we have a lot of kids that don’t necessarily have a lot of food at home. Some families have lost a lot of their ties to having a garden in their backyard or foraging for some of the wild, edible plants that we have in the area. So, we have our school and community garden, known as Valleybound, and that’s where we really have tried to reconnect our community with our roots, teaching kids how to grow microgreens. We have a permaculture class for the seventh graders that we’re doing, cooking lessons out there, and just really trying to reconnect people with the fact that growing food is something that you can do, and you don’t have to rely on outside sources to get that for yourself.”

“We have weekly gardening sessions out there once a week, and the students at the school are the most receptive. And that’s something my dad told me, too, when I came back is, if you want to affect social change and really look at bringing people to self-empowerment, you have to start with the kids because those are the minds that are ripe for change. And that’s where we see the most interest, and the kids just running out there to the garden and learning about quinoa and purple potatoes and all these things that are so magical to them because they’ve never seen them before.”

“The Department of Energy, with Los Alamos Labs, started transferring this nuclear waste here in town, without talking to any of the local municipalities or the local people. People were angry, and people were afraid of their health and the environmental impacts that could have if it were to spill. People went door to door canvassing, gathering signatures, gathering a membership base for the organization. That’s how we [Conejos Clean Water] started. It ended up ending in the courts through litigation with a partner, the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council, and we were able to effectively halt the transfer of nuclear waste right here in town, a town of eight hundred people.”


Conejos Clean Water

Donate to Conejos Clean Water

Valleybound - Antonito School and Community Garden

Río Grande del Norte National Monument Expansion


Nov 10, 2016


Finance Strategies, Sustainable Development, and Future Benefits

In This Episode:

01:11 Shalini Vajjhala is introduced.
02:10 Shalini tells about the moment when the idea of re:focus came into existence.
05:27 Shalini shares what re:focus is and the work it takes on.
06:56 Does Shalini have a favorite project or a project that she thinks was particularly innovative or successful?
09:20 Shalini discusses if her favorite project has been built and how it was financed.
11:05 Shalini explains if the majority of RE.bound projects are in post-catastrophe situations.
16:24 Is there a catastrophe bond currently in place?
17:22 Shalini elaborates on the financial flow of the catastrophe bonds.
19:00 Shalini discusses the insurance-policy transaction.
21:40 Has the insurance industry been receptive or supportive?
23:10 How does this work impact low-income communities?
27:48 Are there any reports about who is still missing and who lost the most as a result of Hurricane Katrina?
28:55 Shalini shares where people can learn more about her work.
29:17 Shalini provides one change that would lead to smarter, more sustainable, and more equitable communities.
29:52 Shalini states the action that listeners can take to help build a more equitable and sustainable future.
30:35 Shalini shares what disaster preparedness and community resilience look like 30 years from now.


Shalini Vajjhala is the Founder and CEO of re:focus partners. Shalini has an interdisciplinary background with over a decade of experience in green design, engineering, economics, and policy. Before starting re:focus partners, Shalini served as Special Representative in the Office of Administrator Lisa Jackson at the US Environmental Protection Agency. In this position, she led the US-Brazil Joint Initiative on Urban Sustainability (JIUS) announced in March 2011 by Presidents Obama and Rousseff. The JIUS was a signature initiative of the June 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), demonstrating how environmental protection can serve as a driver for economic growth and job creation in building the greener economies and smarter cities of the future.

Previously, Shalini served as Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Office of International & Tribal Affairs at the US EPA and as Deputy Associate Director for Energy and Climate at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. She joined the Obama Administration from Resources for the Future, where she was awarded a patent for her work on the Adaptation Atlas.

Shalini received her Ph.D. in Engineering and Public Policy and B.Arch in Architecture from Carnegie Mellon University.

re:focus partners are social entrepreneurs with expertise in public policy and sustainable development. They design integrated resilient infrastructure systems — including water, waste, and energy projects —and develop new public-private partnerships to align public funds and leverage private investment for vulnerable communities around the world.

Take Away Quotes:

“My work has taken a number of really interesting turns over the last few years, most of which look much more coherent in hindsight than I could have ever planned them out to be, but the common thread is actually working with communities on designing both policy systems and actual infrastructure services for the most vulnerable.”

“A lot of environmental mandates are really difficult to comply with for cities that are really trying to do the right thing. So take, for example, a city like Philadelphia that was dealing with a failing stormwater system—the systems that are designed to manage sewers and storm flows—and Philly did something really creative: they actually announced that they were going to try to move to 100% green infrastructure.”

“re:focus was really born out of trying to build a new approach for how governments could work with the private sector, with new investors, and with communities directly to provide safer and better services over time.”

“A lot of the work we do creates benefits that aren’t just about direct revenues, like building a toll road and collecting tolls; we design things that create future benefits as well.”


re:focus partners

RE.bound Program

Follow re:focus partners on Twitter

Hoboken moves to acquire land for its 'largest' and flood-resistant park

Nov 3, 2016


Transitioning Out of a Toxic, Unsustainable Industry

In This Episode:

02:09 The introduction of José T Bravo is given.
02:32 Jose describes the mission and goal of Just Transition Alliance.
03:40 What are the goals of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition and Californians for a Healthy & Green Economy (CHANGE)?
04:35 Jose explains what green chemistry means.
05:38 Jose tells why the gathering at the 2016 National Training and Resources Summit to Revitalize Vulnerable Communities was significant.
06:29 Jose shares if measurable progress is being made in addressing the environmental and public-health challenges that are facing vulnerable communities.
07:33 Was there an avenue for the voice of impacted communities and workers to be a part of the TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act) reform process?
08:22 Jose supplies the message he brought to the Summit, from his stakeholder perspective.
10:16 Jose states what he was hoping to accomplish when he co-lead at the Summit.
11:08 Jose shares about the consumer campaign that Just Transition Alliance is helping to lead.
13:32 Jose conveys why we should all be working toward addressing the disproportionate impact of pollution and health threats to vulnerable communities and workers.
14:35 Jose provides one change that would lead to safer, more sustainable, and more equitable communities.
15:51 Jose states the action that listeners can take to help build a more safe, equitable, and sustainable future.
16:29 Jose shares what chemical and toxic exposure looks like 30 years from now.


José T Bravo is the Executive Director of the Just Transition Alliance. José is a leader in Californian and national chemicals policy reform work, and Green Chemistry as a member of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families and Californians for a Healthy and Green Economy (CHANGE). CHANGE is an alliance of health, environmental, labor, resource organizations and EJ organizations throughout California. Also, José is on the steering committee of the State Alliance for Federal Reform of Chemicals Policy (SAFER). SAFER is an alliance of organizations in key states working to create a pre-market testing system and regulation for all chemicals. José works directly with Environmental Justice (EJ) Communities and Labor (Organized and Unorganized). His work in social justice issues is rooted in his upbringing in the Southern California farm fields alongside both his parents. José has also worked on immigrant rights issues since his days as a student organizer in the 80s to the present. José has participated in the EJ movement since 1990 and over the years he has gained recognition as a national and international leader in the movement. José also serves on the board of Communities for a Better Environment.

The Just Transition Alliance was founded in 1997 as a coalition of environmental justice and labor organizations. Together with frontline workers, and community members who live along the fence-line of polluting industries, the Just Transition Alliance creates healthy workplaces and communities. They focus on contaminated sites that should be cleaned up, and on the transition to clean production and sustainable economies. The Just Transition Alliance is a 501(c)3 organization based in San Diego, California.

Take Away Quotes:

“For the first time, we were able to go and talk about what a regional economy looks like, what a safe job should look like, what a community-driven infrastructure should be looking like, and it’s so important to involve the communities in what goes in those communities.”

“We tested 164 products. We found products with—earrings for children, targeted to children, with over 4,000 parts per million of lead…At least 81% of the 164 products that we tested had one chemical of concern or more.”

“There’s liquor stores and dollar stores…But this is also putting us in a position, in an environmental justice position, that many of these chemicals are actually made in our communities, they’re put into products in our communities, they’re sold back to our communities, and they’re also dumped back in our communities. So we get a multi-fold of impact while many communities, many white communities primarily, they do have access to dollar stores, but, at the same time, they don’t have the whole myriad of impact that they pose in an environmental justice community.”

“What we believe in the environmental-justice movement is that if our communities are safer, society as a whole in the United States will be safer because we share and we put up with the disproportionate burden.”


2016 National Training & Resources Summit to Revitalize Vulnerable Communities –Moving Communities from Surviving to Thriving

Just Transition Alliance

Infinite Earth Radio Episode 43: Moving Vulnerable Communities from Surviving to Thriving, Part 4 –with Sharon Beard, NIEHS

Infinite Earth Radio Episode 42: Moving Vulnerable Communities from Surviving to Thriving, Part 3 –with Khalil Shahyd, NRDC

Infinite Earth Radio Episode 41: Moving Vulnerable Communities from Surviving to Thriving, Part 2 –with Gilbert Campbell, Volt Energy

Infinite Earth Radio Episode 40: Moving Vulnerable Communities from Surviving to Thriving, Part 1 –with Mustafa Ali, EPA

Infinite Earth Radio Episode 5: Environmental Justice and Smart Growth – with Mustafa Ali and Carlton Eley, EPA