Volunteer Spotlight: Gregory Monahan

Gregory!On any given day, you can find Gregory working in the office on the Portland Clean Energy Fund (PCEF) ballot initiative, recruiting and training volunteers as the Oregon Chapter’s Volunteer Coordinator for the campaign. He’s been volunteering with the Chapter for 3 years, and found his way into the environmental movement after being tasked with teaching climate change and sustainability to engineering students at Portland Community College over a decade ago. (Later on, he made those topics a requirement for all students on the engineering track at PCC.)

Upon learning the science behind the impending climate crisis, Gregory diagnosed himself with what he calls the “green blues,” a deep despair for the vast problems plaguing our world, which can only be cured by activism. He’s been non-stop ever since. “I tend to go all in or not at all,” he laughed.

What excites Gregory about PCEF is how clearly the initiative would address the intersection of what he called the four major problems plaguing our country: racism, a broken democracy, income inequality, and climate change. “None of these problems can be solved individually,” he told me. “It will take a system-level, movement-building approach to transition to a just, equitable, and sustainable world.”

The Chapter’s Clean Energy Task Force, of which Gregory is a member of the Steering Committee, became inspired by the concept of a Beloved Community, a term popularized by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights movement. Their vision is to create a Beloved Community of volunteers – where all working on this historic initiative feel welcomed, supported, and valued. (Want to be one of those team members? Learn more and sign up here!)

“Let’s look at climate change this way: We’re on an airplane that we know is going to crash. Look around look at your fellow passengers: there will be people running around screaming and those raiding the cocktail bar. Then there’s the people doing something about it: moving their collective weight to the left and right of the plane so we bellyflop rather than nose dive. And while we’re going down on this plane, moving our weight back and forth, we might as well radically shift the culture we’re in and love each other.

— Gregory Monahan

Fun facts about Gregory

  • He holds a Master’s degree in engineering and a PhD in electromagnetics. He’s held a variety of different jobs throughout his life, including car mechanic, carpenter, electrical engineer, building contractor, private school manager, and engineering instructor at Portland Community College.
  • Soon he’ll be finishing up a 6-month course called Awakening to Whiteness at the Zen Community of Oregon. “If you want to change the world,” he says, “You have to start by changing yourself. I am a 73-year-old white male who has benefited from our culture of a white, male, heterosexual dominated society. I have learned so much about my personal privilege and the undeniable ongoing existence of racism in our present-day culture.”
  • He and his wife Amy have 2 daughters and 3 grandchildren – all who live in Portland.
  • “I’m a deacon in the church of early!,” you may hear him say, as he always arrives at least a half hour early to events.
  • As a self-described “JewBu,” or Jewish-Buddhist, his favorite quote is from Rabbi Tarfon, who lived over 2,000 years ago: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work [of perfecting the world], but you are not free to desist from it either.”
  • Gregory’s currently reading: Energy Democracy: Advancing Equity in Clean Energy Solutions, edited by Denise Fairchild and Al Weinrub and No Time to Spare, by Ursula K. Le Guin.

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