Mike Millikin, publisher of green-car blog, answers questions
What work do you do?
I am the publisher/writer of Green Car Congress, a site covering technologies, issues, and policies for sustainable mobility.
What does your organization do? What, in a perfect world, would constitute “mission accomplished”?
My mission is to build a company that offers a portfolio of media products providing detailed technical, practical business and product information focused on sustainable energy and transportation markets to professionals and consumers. I want to provide people the information and context they need to make the right — or at least informed — decisions: personal, business, and political.
What do you really do, on a day-to-day basis? What are you working on at the moment?
Read, write, and raise money. My predilection is to focus on the analysis and the writing, so I need to live within a daily structure that ensures I spend enough time working on the business side — which I still don’t.
What long and winding road led you to your current position?
I’m basically a technology media guy. I don’t come out of the environmental movement, aside from a hazy memory of slapping an early Earth Day sticker on the rear window of my car. My professional background is information technology and the internet.
Coming out of school, I spent a couple of years living in Gary, Ind., and working in one of the local steel mills. The refineries at Whiting are nearby. The technicolor banding in the sky from the mills and the refineries and the smells will always stay with me — as will the refrain of one of my friends, who, when the air was particularly ripe, would breathe deeply, thump on his chest, and proclaim: “That’s the smell of jobs!” It shouldn’t have to be like that.
I was a computer and networking consultant and analyst in the ’80s, and had the good fortune/opportunity to encounter and work with a number of the people who laid the foundation for the internet. I saw how rapidly a technology-infused market can grow, and how rapidly things can change when such a market is driven by demand (or need) and fueled with information.
Given our increasing understanding of climate change and peak oil, we (global we, not just us) need to make the broadest-scale, most rapid transition of behavior, technologies, and markets ever conceived. We don’t have all the answers, but we need urgently to figure it out.
This must be done from a broad basis of knowledge and understanding, not fear and reaction. My goal is to help that process.
How many emails are currently in your inbox?
1,201 (ouch). 327 unread as of 6 a.m. this morning. Correspondence coming from the GCC site is a major component of that — questions from readers, requests for assistance, new ideas coming from inventors. Much of it is not email newsletters … I use RSS for that where possible. So really, I have to contend with my email and my RSS feeds.
Who’s the biggest pain in the ass you have to deal with?
For what I do right now, it’s the spammers (porn, meds, whatever) that gum up the site and get in the way of the exchange of information. Closely related to those would be ideological ranters.
Where were you born? Where do you live now?
Ann Arbor, Mich. Mill Valley, Calif.
What environmental offense has infuriated you the most?
Personally aggravating? Cars or trucks that are clearly out of emissions compliance, spewing soot and fumes into the traffic. It’s not like the problem could possibly be a secret!
Who is your environmental hero?
The large numbers of cause-based organizations that latch on to a particular issue and stick with it. These are the people with their fingers in the numerous holes in the global dike, trying to keep it from collapsing, while the rest of us figure out that, gee, we should really do something about that.
Who is your environmental nightmare?
Habit. Ignorance. Avarice. (Sounds like a medieval morality play.)
For the pragmatic environmentalist, what should be the focus — political action designed to change policy, or individual action designed to change lifestyle?
It needs to be both, but if I had to pick only one, I’d go for bottom-up. Cultural and market change. Top-down change can be quick, but it won’t last without fundamental change from the bottom up. Bottom-up change, if massive enough, can force the top-down adjustment. Lack of bottom-up change will undermine what’s done top-down. Great example: 55 mph speed limit.
What’s your environmental vice?
Electricity use. Absentmindedly leaving lights on. My computers and espresso machine.
What are you reading these days?
What’s your favorite place or ecosystem?
California. Coastline, mountains, desert. What’s not to like?
What’s one thing the environmental movement is doing particularly well?
Persistence and focus on specific local issues, resulting in long-term and enduring changes (air quality, local pollution, recycling programs, etc.).
What’s one thing the environmental movement is doing badly, and how could it be done better?
Being able to advance some of the larger arguments on a non-environmental basis. Being, or allowing itself to be positioned as, inflexible and in opposition to “mainstream” macro concerns, such as jobs, economy, growth, energy … even the price of gas. Maslow’s hierarchy holds.
The only counter I see to that is ongoing efforts in education on sustainability and what that means.
If you could institute by fiat one environmental reform, what would it be?
Mandatory fuel economy and/or vehicular CO2 emissions standards, with escalating targets over time. It’s the quickest way to get us some extra time.
What was your favorite band when you were 18? How about now?
Jethro Tull. Loreena McKennitt.
What’s your favorite TV show? Movie?
Current series: House.
Movie: The Godfather, Part II.
Terror/reality TV: C-SPAN.
What are you happy about right now?
The amount of traffic and discourse the GCC site is generating.
If you could have every InterActivist reader do one thing, what would it be?
Take a cloth bag to the supermarket — save the oil that goes into the plastic bag or the upstream processing of paper or plastic for something else.