Remembering Steve Schneider, Climate Warrior

Today, it’s been five years since our planet lost its most intrepid climate warrior.

Steve Schneider was a brilliant climatologist, a kind human being, and a devoted global citizen. I had the privilege of working with him as his assistant, and as his graduate student. He was my father in many ways. We shared ethical convictions, intellectual passions, and a commitment to safeguarding our planet and future generations.

As I remember Steve today, I want to thank him for introducing me to some of the strong, fierce, loving, tenacious, and giving aspects of myself. He helped me become more me, and he taught me what it means to believe in myself and to leverage myself for the good of all.

As part of my remembrance of Steve this year, I read through a dedication I wrote to him as part of the May 2011 issue of the Stanford Journal of Law, Science, and Policy. Here’s an excerpt:

“He was an extraordinarily talented communicator. He could condense complex climate science and policy issues into a five-minute speech using simple language and wise metaphors, and then proceed to inform, educate, and advise Congressional and Senate committees. I watched him speak to diverse audiences. About speaking, he always said, “Know thy audience, know thy self, and know thy stuff!” He always began with what the audience knew, and then guided them to what he knew, what was uncertain, and what he thought we should do. He was quick on his feet and enjoyed updating his presentations with new information. He loved communicating with people. He always included pictures of birds, other wildlife, and fun photos from his travels. He often had clever jokes handy.

 

Jokes aside, he was a fighter for truth. He courageously debunked pernicious skeptics who sought to spread misinformation about the status of climate science. In the last few years, Dr. Schneider told me he was spending about thirty percent of his time (and, I thought, losing precious sleep) to repeatedly set the story straight. Albert Einstein was correct when he said, “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.””

 

You can read the full dedication here. You can also read more about him, his books, presentations, and his research on his website.

Steve taught me many lessons while he lived: have integrity, be optimistic, carry out and rely on good science, know your biases, be an ethical and proactive citizen, and above all, be a kind and loving human being. However, he also taught me something through his death. I learned that exhaustion can be fatal: Steve was a cancer survivor, but he was exhausted from being up late at night to debunk climate skeptics. I repeatedly asked him if it was worth it, since his lack of sleep was becoming harmful. His response was, “If I don’t do it, who will?”

When Steve passed away unexpectedly, I was struck by the importance of slowing down. I realized that I, too, had been working incessantly and that it was taking a toll on my health. I began to give more time to meditation, being outside, and resting. It took me a few years, but I have changed myself to become more mindful and more balanced.

My transformation has led to the development of Alchemus Prime, which emphasizes authenticity and balance as we solve some of the planet’s most daunting challenges by leveraging the best that science has to offer to be our best selves, and develop the most robust solutions possible.

I know that Steve knew the importance of his efforts, and that he wanted to give as much as he could in the time he had left. And he did. Everyone who knew him appreciates all he gave…in the end, he gave his very life. Steve’s life and his death are priceless lessons for me and I carry them with me everyday.

I want the world to be the balance that I aim to embody with my everyday actions. A balance between doing and being, working and playing, giving and receiving, loving and letting go, empathy and detached compassion; a balance between self-care and selflessness. Because our most creative, effective, and brilliant ideas and solutions emerge when we take breaks, rest, and play.

I know Steve is still on my team of mentors, encouraging me to keep going. For it is through the healing of the inner self that we heal the outer world.

Thank you Steve…for always being there…you continue to teach me so much.

 

I took this picture of Steve Schneider at Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve in the summer of 2008. RIP, Steve.

I took this picture of Steve Schneider at Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve in the summer of 2008. RIP, Steve.

 

 

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