Climate Leadership in LA: Interview with Rachelle Reyes Wenger

Rachelle Wenger is the Director of Public Policy & Community Advocacy of Dignity Health and a scheduled speaker for Climate Day LA 2017.

Tell us about your work on climate change. 

Our climate and sustainability goals include reducing waste, evaluating what we purchase, making facilities more energy-efficient, and promoting better food choices. We’ve also set targets for 2020 to reduce our GHG emissions by 40% and increase sourcing of renewable energy to 35%. We’re especially proud of our shareholder and legislative advocacy work: Our new investment policy integrates environmental sustainability into our investment goals, and we have advocated for landmark climate legislation in California, including SB 350, the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act.

What inspired you on your career path? And what or who inspires you now?

As a five-year-old immigrant to this country, life’s journey has led to many paths — all of which pulled for something greater in me, of me. The environment — all of it, people, nature, our interactions — is both so informing and inspiring. It tells you when you’re home, how your voice is needed, what door to walk through, why it’s so important to stand up for the little guys and those in need. It’s quite a luxury (and, to be honest, uncomfortable) to think about what I do now as a career. It makes sense to me to think of work more as a calling. I love being about a healing mission that’s doing its part to care for human health and the environment and striving each and every day to be guided by values that squarely look at how to further dignity, justice, collaboration, stewardship and excellence. Our patients and the communities we serve inspire me; our Sponsors who entrust us with the ministry inspire me; the many men and women who commit day in and day out to the work of healthcare inspire me; the many organizations, business and community leaders who toil to improve the quality of life inspire me; and above all, those who have no voice and live in the margins of society, yet call out to us, move me most.

What are the barriers you face in work — and what could make your job easier?

The greatest challenge to work seems to be how we humans approach change and how to harness the power of diversity. I come across fear disguised in so many ways. I think we forget we’re on the same team, that there’s a common good to unearth. It would be great if we understood at the outset that work is about creating the possibilities for change — that we’re the changemakers to human kindness in the world. Misunderstanding, suffering, isolation, destruction — these are so palpable today. What are ways we can build from the cultural assets we have to sustain communities and lift us up as a whole? There is no one answer, but I bet it would help to be open to finding out.

A genie grants you two wishes that will help fight climate change. What do you ask for? The third wish is for anything you want (sky’s the limit!).

The first wish is for climate change to mean something personal — in the way that we’d want to give our all, our best thinking, our best way of caring, our best way of doing things together. The second is to fall in love with Earth. I guess that’s another way of saying my first wish. Lastly, since sky’s the limit, I’d like to be that wish-granting genie that can transport herself from place to place in a blink. How cool is that?! Just imagine all the GHGs from jet fuel I’d prevent not having to fly. So much of Earth to see, delight and relish in wonder. Make room for me, Barbara Eden — there’s another genie in town.

Stef McDonald is the Communications Director for our partner organization Climate Resolve. This post first appeared on the Path to Positive: Los Angeles blog.

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