August 25 – SDUT Name Drop San Diego Podcast – Abby Hamblin and Kristy Totten report – You’ve probably heard of the city of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan, but do you know the woman behind it?
Nicole Capretz is an environmental attorney and the founder and executive director of the Climate Action Campaign. She founded the campaign in 2015 specifically to get San Diego to adopt a 100% clean energy plan, and it’s a plan the city is still following today.
Before she pressured City Hall from the outside, Capretz, 50, worked on policy inside it for both City Councilwoman Donna Frye and interim Mayor Todd Gloria. Now, the City Heights resident and her organization continue to push for local action and policies to fight the climate crisis, including community choice energy and better public transit.
She joined the Name Drop San Diego podcast to talk about her work, her personal philosophy and how she unwinds after challenging days.
Listen to the full conversation in the podcast player above or read excerpts below.
Can you get more done — and is it better to be — inside or outside City Hall?
I think there’s value to both. … When I started out, I was outside City Hall, so I was working with nonprofit public interest organizations knocking on the doors of elected officials saying, “Please listen to us, meet us, you know, care what we have to say.” That got frustrating, to be honest, especially when I first started. There wasn’t really a strong environmental ethic in San Diego. There was kind of a general one but it was never top of the political agenda. … Then when I got on the inside, I was so excited by the way. I thought, “Oh, now things are going to happen.” … It was incredible to see that my boss … (former San Diego City Councilwoman) Donna Frye … she did have the button to push, but she was … one of nine. … Because she was only one (vote), it became that critical realization that, oh, we need more. We need more people who are on the same page as us. And as importantly, we need to create coalitions.
How do you keep yourself going when this work takes so long?
When you have a north star… For me, having clean air and clean water and a just, equitable world is so important — it’s my life’s work — that I understand it’s not going to happen over night and it’s going to require investment of almost all of me for my lifetime, you know, as long as I’m able, obviously. Just look at the legacy of Rep. John Lewis, right? I think if there’s ever a shining example of somebody who understood that change take decades and won’t be completed in our lifetimes, so that’s clear, that we have to, though, stay in the game, we have to stay in the trenches. Especially folks, when you get to be my age — now that I’ve been doing this for 25 years — we bring a lot of experience to bear and expertise that is valuable, coupled with the energy, enthusiasm and fierceness of the young people, who are just blowing me away with everything they’re bringing to the streets. They’re not compromising. “We want change and we want it now.” It lifts me up. It inspires me and it keeps me going. It’s a good balance.
What gave you such a positive outlook personally?
I think I learned it from my dad, who just passed away this year. 2020, man. This is just a rough, rough year. … But I have to say my dad has always been my strongest supporter and somebody I’ve always admired. He was a lawyer for the underdog. He was a plaintiff’s attorney, which means he took on the big corporations and was just fighting the good fight. I always saw him acting with integrity and being a solid human being. And he didn’t always win, and that really wasn’t the point. The point was that people trusted him and they relied on him and he was always there for people, always present, for my family as well as the broader community. Sometimes you don’t even know what you’re processing or internalizing as you’re growing up in the world but now that he’s gone, I’ve had more and more time to reflect. And I always want to make him proud.