Eric Ritz, youth-activism promoter, answers Grist’s questions
What work do you do?
I’m the founder and executive director of Global Inheritance.
What does your organization do?
We reinvent activism for today’s young generation. Our initiatives focus on the power of creativity to communicate and push for progressive social change while rejecting conflict. Global Inheritance targets various subcultures, developing campaigns that cater specifically to each individual demographic.
Under the Global Inheritance banner are several different programs with goals ranging from promoting recycling to stopping nuclear-weapons proliferation. TRASHed is a two-pronged program — part art-based and part event-based. The Art of Recycling is a large-scale art initiative bringing together major artists to turn ordinary recycling bins into inspiring works of art. And the TRASHed Recycling Store, set up at various concerts and other events, accepts recyclable bottles as currency toward cool merchandise. Tour Rider is another event-related program; it focuses on traffic congestion and air pollution, giving concertgoers who carpool access to a range of perks including gift bags and VIP privileges.
What are you working on at the moment?
We just finished our first concert as part of a series of events called Public Displays of Affection, which rewards people who use the subway or bus system in Los Angeles. Next on our plate is AFI Fest, a film festival held by the American Film Institute. What I’m really excited about currently is Coachella 2007. We are planning several really cool programs at this year’s festival that will raise the environmental bar for all major music festivals around the world.
How do you get to work?
I roll out of bed and over to the desk.
What long and winding road led you to your current position?
I grew up with parents who had strong morals. I also lived in a progressive town (Portland, Ore.) and went to school at the University of Oregon (although I wasn’t the stereotypical UO activist). I helped organize benefit concerts and worked with a lot of out-of-touch nonprofits. Then I worked on the Truth campaign. And finally, the rise of the internet and meeting Matt Brady, who is currently the Global Inheritance creative director, led me to where I am today.
Where were you born? Where do you live now?
Born in Detroit and ended up in Los Angeles.
What has been the worst moment in your professional life to date?
Having to deal with lame people who care only for themselves.
What’s been the best?
I’ve worked in several cutthroat industries that employ creative and hardworking people. I love people who are very passionate about life and don’t compromise or change for others. I believe you have one shot at life, so make the most of it.
What environmental offense has infuriated you the most?
Where do I begin?
Who is your environmental hero?
There’s too many to count. I think God and all the religious figures should be environmental heroes. I want to start a campaign with God saying you will be damned if you litter or drive a Hummer in NYC. Think about the positive environmental impact Buddha, Allah, Jesus, and Muhammad could have on society!
What’s your environmental vice?
I fall asleep watching movies and leave the TV on.
Read any good books lately?
Papillon by Henri Charriere.
What’s your favorite place to eat?
I love a Brazilian restaurant called Bossa Nova. It’s open ’til 4 a.m., and has amazing food and decent prices.
Which stereotype about environmentalists most fits you?
I drive a hybrid but fly around in a Learjet.
What’s your favorite place or ecosystem?
If you could institute by fiat one environmental reform, what would it be?
Instead of running the morning news with celebrity/murder updates, all the major networks would broadcast a 15-minute news piece talking about the environment and ways to integrate new ideas into your everyday life.
Who was your favorite musical artist when you were 18? How about now?
What’s your favorite TV show? Movie?
I don’t watch much TV, but I get Netflix and rented Live Aid recently. I’m not sure what we were thinking in the ’80s. People were so over the top. I can’t believe people dressed and acted that way. I think the entire world was high.
Which actor would play you in the story of your life?
If you could have every InterActivist reader do one thing, what would it be?
Avoid being backseat drivers; take the wheel and show by example what’s possible.