Significant Figures by Peter Gleick

As readers of this column may already know, earlier this week the Pacific Institute and I announced an important and exciting change: on July 1st after 28 years as co-founder and President of the Institute, I will be moving to a new position as President Emeritus and Chief Scientist. A wide search for a new president has been launched.

I’m neither resigning nor retiring. In my new role, I will continue to do research and writing on global climate, water, and sustainability issues, and I will continue to speak out on science and policy issues in public forums, with the press, and on social media channels like this one at National Geographic ScienceBlogs and at Huffington Post.  Indeed, as many friends, colleagues, and readers know, I’m a firm believer in the vital need to integrate science and policy, to speak out publicly on issues of importance to current and future generations, to change the way we think about water, and to challenge those who would seek to delay needed actions or confuse or mislead the public about science (here or here) and the global challenges facing the planet. I will also continue my pro-bono professional work with U.S. National Academy of Sciences committees, various journal editorial boards, and committees with professional science societies, but I will also free up uncommitted time to take on new challenges, and travel.

Some friends have asked, why now? Two reasons: First, organizations are full of people who stay in positions of leadership and power a bit too long. So better to plan carefully and do this before that happens (if I have…). But second, and most importantly, the Pacific Institute is in a perfect position now for this transition: we have a superb, top-quality staff of researchers, policy analysts, a unique and highly valued approach to creating and advancing solutions to global water challenges, a strong committed board of directors, and a visionary strategic plan.

The Institute works with a wide array of partners and stakeholders, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to environmental groups, and from the United Nations to disenfranchised communities. This is exactly the right time for the Institute to expand its effectiveness, reach, and influence in tackling the threats to water resources of climate change and extreme events, unsustainable management and use of urban and agricultural water, conflicts over water resources, the human right to water, and the growing importance of corporate water stewardship and sustainability efforts at the national and international scale.

On a practical level, before I transition to my new role, the selection of a new president is currently being led by a board-appointed committee (including staff members), which has retained California Environmental Associates, a San Francisco-based executive search firm to carry out the recruitment process. Here is the job description; please share it with appropriate friends and candidates. We’re seeking someone with exceptional skills who will continue to build on the strengths of the Institute and bring new insights and ideas as the Institute expands its ability and influence.

A few notes of personal thanks as I make this transition to the staff and board of the Institute who have been and continue to be hugely supportive and a source of inspiration to me; my personal friends and professional colleagues who have always encouraged me to follow the dream of starting an organization like this and then encouraged it over the years; the Institute’s many and diverse donors and funders who saw and continue to see the value and unique role we play in helping reshape the way society thinks about problems of global sustainability; and most importantly my family, who may actually get to see a bit more of me, but who never (really) complained about my workload.

So, I look forward to continuing the battles to save the planet and to my interactions with you, in whatever form they take.

Dr. Peter Gleick is a climate and water scientist, researcher, author, MacArthur Fellow, and member of the United States National Academy of Sciences He co-founded the Pacific Institute in 1987 to conduct interdisciplinary research, policy analysis, and public outreach. A full(er) bio can be found here.