Directing the Sierra Club is a bit like driving an elephant, says Carl Pope.
Question: Beyond a simple title, how would you describe what you do?
Carl Pope: Well hmm. That’s a good question. I mean I can tell you what I do on a daily basis. I can tell you . . . I mean I raise money. I talk to the media. We’ve got 800,000 members; 34,000 active volunteers; 450 staff people. I’m kind of the mahout who sits on top of the elephant with this thing in my hand called an ankus. And I poke the elephant in the left ear if I want it to go right. And maybe the elephant goes right and maybe it doesn’t. And I’m not in charge of the elephant. I’m quite clear on that. The elephant’s a lot bigger than I am. But I think that my craft is how you take public values and the attitudes and temperaments of leaders in our democracy and make those leaders do what the public wants, whether or not it’s for that reason or not. I mean my job is to take what the public wants government to do and somehow cajole government into doing it. And that’s an imperfect craft, and the last couple of years have been interesting. A lot of things that were pretty predictable have gotten much less predictable.