Billionaire activist talks water, oil, politics and climbing with The Sheet
Billionaire environmental activist and founder of NextGen Climate, Tom Steyer visited the Eastern Sierra this week to listen to the concerns of residents of Mono and Inyo Counties and discuss the idea of what it means to be a Californian in an age of climate change and political unrest.
Steyer spoke at a meeting of the group 350 Mono at the Mono Inn on Tuesday, September 13 and caught up with The Sheet for a few minutes after he’d mixed a little business with pleasure—Steyer had just bagged Polemonium Peak. He’s on a mission to summit every 14,000 foot peak in the Sierra, and was feeling sore but happy to have notched another off the list.
The 59-year-old father of four was a hedge fund manager in San Francisco for years, where he (literally) made his billion. In 2010, Steyer and his wife, Kat Taylor, pledged to contribute most of their wealth to charitable causes during their lifetimes.
Steyer has now dedicated his life to fighting for the rights of California farm workers, fighting the tobacco industry, and addressing climate change. He helped to gather more than 20,000 signatures in support of SB 32 and AB 197, which address greenhouse gases and climate change. He’s also fighting to defeat presidential candidate Donald Trump—he’s run several popular ads against the real estate mogul. In April, he launched a $25 million campaign to get out the youth vote in battleground states.
Sheet: You were a hedge fund manager, and now you’re a climate and social justice activist. Why the shift?
Steyer: The funny thing is that I started the shift in 2002. Having my own business and having four little kids, I was pretty busy. But I was aware enough to think that George W. Bush was going to turn out to be devastatingly bad for the U.S. I thought, ‘He’s going to send us back 25 years.’ However busy I am at work, and trying to bring my family up…I’ve got to be participating in a much more active way.