August Climate Leader: Peter Krebs

Peter Krebs leading Tour de Solar 2019 (shown kneeling)

Peter Krebs leading Tour de Solar 2019 (shown kneeling)


Our Climate Leader for August is Peter Krebs, Community Outreach Coordinator for the Piedmont Environmental Council! Where would Charlottesville Bike and Pedestrian community be without his passion, dedication, and organizing around such an important issue? Learn more about what drives Peter’s passion in this blog.

1. How did you get involved and passionate about the environment?

Wow...There are a lot of potential answers there, but I’ll toss out a few key moments! My dad’s a meteorologist so I’ve been hearing about weather and climate since birth. Another important thing is that I attended Parks & Rec ecology camps (in Montgomery County, Maryland) starting in elementary school and then I was a summer seasonal for the Parks Department throughout high school. Programs of this kind are essential for grooming the next generation--that’s how I got my start.

2. What are you hopeful about right now?

There’s a direct correlation between citizen participation and equitable, pro-social outcomes. I’m working at the intersection between environmental stewardship, public health, and community engagement and there’s a lot of great work happening in each of those areas right now, and I’m finding many allies working on all three. How could I not be inspired?

3. What is one thing that is holding the state or local community back from greater progress?

I’m going to say two things because I’m both a planner and an activist. Both are at the state level. First, the single stroke that would make the most difference would be to re-examine Dillon’s Rule, which limits localities’ ability to act without permission from the state legislature, which is less accessible, less transparent, and often quite resistant to change.

I would also say that, with a legislative act, we could have true net metering, which would change the equation on solar and unleash the small-scale entrepreneurism that is one of America’s greatest strengths. I have solar panels on my house but only ¾ capacity because anything beyond that could end up as a pure gift to Dominion. I would like to be able to sell clean energy to the community, but I can’t do it. Imagine if every home- or building-owner had a real incentive to figure out ways to best harness the sun...

4. What is a climate action personally or professionally that you are proud of?

I’m super-proud of the new alliances that I’m seeing and people working across disciplines, City, County and University working together on common goals and shared opportunity, as well as individuals getting more involved and in more creative ways. We’re starting to see some results of the stepped up community involvement: unanimous support for the Jefferson Area Bike/Ped Plan, Albemarle County’s major new commitment to better fund bike/pedestrian improvements, new projects underway and most of all: more people out walking, biking and running.

There’s lots more work to do but I really like the progress we’re seeing. I don’t claim credit for the work that so many other people (such as yourselves) have done and are doing but it feels like the wind is at our backs. If I will someday be judged by the company I keep, I should be in good shape!

5. What is one thing folks can do today to help reduce climate pollution?

I try to live my own life the right way and we all should, but what we really need is aggregate action at scale. We’ve already spoken about state-level policy. At the local level, people need to advocate for dense, walkable communities that are healthy, with out-the-door access to jobs, services, exercise and opportunities for reflection.

If we continue to sprawl, we’re toast. We need smart development that’s dense and highly livable and it needs to be where people already are. That means that people will need to adapt, but we also need to reshape the community so it works better for people who live here and is worthy of those who will follow us. It won’t be easy but if we are active while also being reflective, work together and listen to one another, I know we can do it.

6. This is challenging work. What is your favorite way to recharge and rejuvenate?

It’s funny--I’m a big believer in the idea of speaking intentions into reality and I’ve benefitted from my own theory of change. I’m always telling people to go for a walk or run, to ride their bike, paddle, volunteer--or whatever gets them out of doors, moving, and into contact with new people. All that evangelizing has caused me to be better about doing all of those things. I love exploring, being active, and getting inspired by new people. It both refreshes and energizes me and makes me want to do more!