Photo: Sandra Postel

Photograph by Virginia Smith

Name: Sandra L. Postel
Place of Birth:
New York
Current City:
Los Lunas, New Mexico
Occupation: Environmental Researcher, Writer, Lecturer

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Exactly what I'm doing now.

How did you get started in your field of work?
After I finished graduate school at Duke, I landed a job with a small natural resources consulting company in California. My first assignment was to help write a handbook for communities across the country to use in designing water conservation programs. I worked with a civil engineer who knew all about urban water and wastewater systems. It was perfect. Three years later, I joined the Worldwatch Institute, where I happily occupied the global water niche. It all unfolded from there.

What inspires you to dedicate your life to freshwater?
I love nature—and water is the source of it all. I care about the mussels and fish and frogs that depend on water. The extinction of life pains me. I just want to do my part to be sure we humans conserve water and share it with all of life.

What’s a normal day like for you?
Hours of reading, thinking, writing. Quite often a plane ride to give a talk somewhere. Exercise—a walk or run, maybe some tennis. Depending on the season, some work in the vegetable garden or carrying in wood. Then back to reading, thinking, and writing.

Do you have a hero?
Marjorie Spock. She's not well known. She took the federal government to court in 1958 to stop the aerial spraying of DDT across Long Island. She became a good friend of Rachel Carson's. I met Marjorie when I was researching that spraying. She was 101 and sharp as a tack. She was still holding weekly philosophy discussion groups at her home in Maine. She had a rare blend of wisdom and humility. I corresponded with her occasionally until she died in 2008 at 103. Marjorie Spock is but a footnote of history but she helped change the world.

If you could have people do one thing to help save freshwater, what would it be?
Landscape with native plants, grasses and shrubs, and avoid planting thirsty lawns in dry places.

Learn more about Sandra.

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Change the Course Infographic


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