Ever have that nightmare where you still haven’t finished your thesis? Former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson *86 has.
Returning to campus can counteract that “recurring nightmare,” Jackson said, addressing an audience of students, faculty, and community members in Dodds Auditorium April 9.
“I still have that nightmare that it’s the day before my master’s thesis defense. And I haven’t finished it, but I’m really stressed,” she said, the audience laughing. “But every time I’m here, it reinforces that I got the degree.”
Jackson, a chemical engineer who served as head of the EPA in the Obama administration from January 2009 until February of this year, recounted her personal story of how she came to define herself as environmentalist.
Noting that the word “environmentalist” has, in some circles, come to refer to environmental activism for political purposes, Jackson provided her own definition: An environmentalist is someone “who cares deeply about and prioritizes the environment — the environment, not as an outside concept, but more for its impact on our health, its impact on our well-being … and its impacts on our prosperity,” she said.
Jackson recalled learning about environmental issues during her undergraduate years at Tulane, when she first heard of the “soup of chemicals” in the Mississippi River causing problems downstream in New Orleans as well as the government’s inability to adequately respond to large-scale, hazardous environmental problems like the infamous Love Canal in upstate New York.