Meet Richard Wegman, our Chief Operating Officer, who works in our Santa Monica office.
What would surprise us about your work?
Not sure about that one — I am pretty transparent. I hold people accountable, but maybe what is in the back of my mind is what would surprise you. I am constantly looking for new funding sources, new ways that we can promote ourselves and bring money to programs. I look for ways to make the organization healthier, and more effective and efficient. I am always looking for how to keep the organization safe from financial losses and lawsuits that could potentially put a drain on our scarce resources.
Who is your hero?
I am a yogi, so my hero is Gandhi. He was humble, poor, and was able to change the world. He did not just change India — his work continues to affect the planet today. But most of all, my heroes are the people who take the world and the environment seriously, and change their own behavior, the choices they make on a daily basis, their values. To me, these are the people that are going to change the world. They don’t wait to be told what to do, or have some piece of legislation adopted to change their behavior — they do it because they are conscious and aware.
What has been your greatest success?
Wow, I don’t think that way. But here are some things I am proud of: Helping to keep our Environmental Security and Sustainability program alive through agreements with Green Cross International and Green Cross Switzerland; helping Plaza Community Center, a 105-year-old organization, stay out of bankruptcy to continue its good work — this is where Goodwill Industries came out of; playing a part in the invention and roll-out of the Los Angeles Recycling program; building a yurt village at Tree People to house 60 staff — something never done before; and building a LEED Platinum community center at Tree People. And, oh yes, I believe that teaching yoga for 15 years is a great success.
What about a failure or challenge?
I have been challenged in the past by wanting to do things my way and have learned from experience (sometimes painfully) that change comes from communication and the involvement of those you want to change. It never comes from force — it comes from community.
Favorite green book?
“Blessed Unrest,” by Paul Hawken. It shows the ramifications of an activist’s work and the effect that each and every one of us has on social change, that we are the largest movement ever known to man, and we have no central leadership.
Favorite green movie?
This keeps changing. “Fuel” I tend to quote a lot; “Avatar” because it reached so many people and is a strong metaphor for our times; “Inconvenient Truth” because it opened up the environment to a whole new level of donors.
Favorite way to spend a free day?
Early morning bike ride, yoga, brunch with friends, beach, dinner with friends, and a concert in the eve.
If you had the power to make one global and green change, what would it be?
Can I have two? One is to stop all government subsidies and loopholes to all destructive industries — beef production, oil, mining, logging — and tax them a much higher “resource” tax. The other is to take away the “person” rights of corporations — it’s a movement that is just getting going and I think has huge potential. Also I would require corporations to follow the precautionary principle, which puts the burden of proof on the corporation instead of our regulatory agencies to prove something is bad for the people. It would, in essence, stop things like nuclear power, toxic chemical use in foods (and cigarettes would have never come to market).