On October 17, 2008, Carolee Krieger, President and Executive Director of the California Water Impact Network, conversed on the phone with Tim Stroshane, C-WIN Senior Research Associate, to recall her friendship and activism with Dorothy Green, who until her death in 2008, was Board Member and Founding Secretary of the California Water Impact Network. Dorothy authored Managing Water: Avoiding Crisis in California, from the University of California Press, in 2007. Here is an excerpt of that conversation.
Carolee Krieger (CK): I think of a person who really cares about where she lives, about the environment, about the people, about speaking truth to power. She was never afraid to do that. She loved being on the cutting edge when she believed wholeheartedly that what she was doing was correct.
We shared a passion for change and healing the wrongs done to the environment. We shared a passion for water as the vehicle to do this. We both are not afraid to take on the establishment and do the right thing for the little guys and the environment. Dorothy had a lot of experience with organizational process and figuring out strategy. Both of us are tenacious and willing to take on things that others do not. When we saw other environmental groups caving to the water industry it made us both more resolute to avoid compromise to win the battle but at the risk of losing the war. We want to win the war.
I can tell you that from the very first moment I met Dorothy, I recognized that she was very courageous. She didn’t care what others thought of her positions. If she knew they were right that was all that mattered. She and I established our deep friendship because we knew this about each other and loved each other for it.
TS: What makes her recent book, Managing Water, important for people to read?
CK: Dorothy clearly understood the problems LA faces and talks about the history of how LA went from wasting a lot of water to using water much more efficiently. This book is a very good example of the microcosm of Los Angeles as it certainly applies to the whole state. Dorothy’s and C-WIN’s Principles of Sustainability.
—which we have online at C-WIN’s web site—are what a sustainable water policy ought to look like for California. I think Dorothy’s book helps folks understand why.
TS: How did you both meet?
CK: In 1995 I held a meeting in my carport because I had just gotten a copy of the proposed Monterey Amendments to the State Water Project and was publicizing how bad these amendments to the state’s water contracts were, and how expensive SWP water would be for Santa Barbara County. Both Dorothy Green and Mike Jackson happened to come, something that began long-time friendships and commitments with both of these people, trying to bring some justice to the water system and to change California’s water policy. I knew when I got the amendments that they were totally wrong, but I didn’t know all the details about why. Mike and Dorothy educated me a lot, both of them have been mentors to me, and Dorothy through all these years has been a very dear friend.
Dorothy was very much a visionary. Her vision is always what’s inspired me.
TS: You mentioned that both Mike and Dorothy “happened to come.” How did they find out about your carport meeting?
CK: You know, I’m not exactly sure. Mike Jackson was in Santa Barbara serendipitously, giving a presentation at a conference sponsored by Stan Hatch’s law firm. Mike had been asked to give a presentation as someone representing an area of origin and someone who knew a lot about the Delta. It was one of those circumstances of fate.
I publicized the meeting as far and wide as I could. Bob Wilkinson was my contact, and Bob certainly knew Dorothy, so it was probably through Bob that Dorothy found out about it. She made a special trip up [from Los Angeles] and sat with the other 50 people in my carport and was totally committed. I gave everyone copies of the amendments and what the state water contractors were planning to do.
Article 12 of the state water contracts called for completion of the State Water Project so that it would deliver 4.23 million acre-feet of water. This would have meant doing away with the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, lots more dams, taking away all the water from northern California that they could suck out of it. We all knew that was really wrong.
Dennis O’Connor (who was then at the California Research Bureau) wrote a paper where he explained the importance of Article 18A and 18B in the state water contracts (link here). And after I read that paper on the contracts, it was a “Eureka!” moment where I understood that what was so wrong with Monterey was that it was going to abolish 18A and 18B. And that was the main thing that I understood at the time.
Dorothy’s whole take on this was much more of the broad policy vision. She could think and visualize and articulate what the solution would be. Dorothy always wanted to do more than just courts and lawsuits. She always wanted to educate the public, change opinion, from the grassroots up, change policy through legislation. That’s a much broader strategy than C-WIN has been in a position to do, but that has always been Dorothy’s vision.
I started C-WIN with Arve Sjovold in 2001. I called Dorothy and asked if she would be interested to be on the board, and she laughed and said, “I thought you’d never ask! Of course!” So she became the secretary and Arve became the treasurer. Over Christmas of 2001, Christmas Day I think it was, she and I put together the legal form for creating the 501c3 organization. She took all the anxiety and panic out of it. We did it from a self-help book that I had purchased. And that’s how C-WIN was born.
And Yvon Chouinard and Hap Dunning were the other two who joined the board at that time. Hap left a little while later.
Dorothy has been our secretary ever since. She was still taking minutes for our board meetings until a few weeks before she died. And what I learned yesterday at her service [at Mount Sinai Cemetery in Los Angeles] is that she is really known for starting organizations and then turning them over to others and going on and doing something else. And the fact that she stayed with C-WIN so long was first, unusual for her, but also, as her son [Josh Green] said is that this was the cutting edge. This was where Dorothy felt she could do the most good. Along with the Los Angeles and San Gabriel River Watershed Council and Heal the Bay in Santa Monica, we really are her legacy. She had moved on from them and was really putting her energy into C-WIN. She fully believed that looking at the problem from a statewide perspective—which is what we do at C-WIN—is what needs to happen.
TS: What is your fondest memory of her?
CK: Spending time with Dorothy and Jack. They came up and spent the night with us on several occasions so Dorothy and I could do our water work. We all enjoyed each other’s company and thought so much alike when it came to how to solve some of the world’s pressing problems.
I loved being able to call Dorothy up and discuss the issues with her. She was always there with great ideas and we always agreed on almost everything. I loved it when she said that we were a “great team,” she and I. That is what I felt too.
TS: Can you remember something funny she said? Maybe something profound?
CK: I can’t remember anything funny although she did have a great sense of humor. She had a way of getting right to the point, like the “fake drought.” She was always willing to tell it like it is. Something I remember her saying something that I thought at the time was very important (and I have remembered it many times since) is this: “Figure out your plan of action. Tell everyone about it including the other side. And then do it.”