In this new Supporter Spotlight feature, we hear directly from donors about their commitment to issues in climate, energy, and the environment; how they make a difference; and why they support Resources for the Future—all in their own words.
Resources magazine recently spoke with Larry Linden, founder of the Linden Trust for Conservation and chair emeritus of the Resources for the Future (RFF) Board of Directors. Below are excerpts from the conversation, from his approach to supporting an organization to his passion for combating climate change, and more.
Resources magazine: You have focused your efforts on climate change as a philanthropist and interested citizen. Why this issue?
Larry Linden: When I look back, climate change has been a thread throughout my entire life. I grew up in Pasadena, California, in the 1950s, when the air was seriously brown. Over the years, the air has gotten much cleaner, showing what good science and sound policy can accomplish. When I served as a young Air Force officer in the Pentagon, I wrote one of the first environmental impact statements, which assessed B-70 bombers. I later worked in the Carter administration, in the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Eventually, I moved to New York and spent most of the next 25 years at McKinsey and Goldman Sachs. I followed the emerging science of climate change the whole time, and it was becoming clear that we were seeing a global crisis in the making.
What brought you to Resources for the Future?
I first learned about RFF during graduate school. I was a student in the MIT Energy Laboratory, where we studied resource economics. So I knew RFF, and I knew the quality of the work, even then. Later, as I left Goldman Sachs and was asked, “What are you going to do now?” I said, “I'm going to see if I can slow down the rate at which we're destroying the planet.”
I had already known Paul Portney, who was then the president of RFF. When I was working at OSTP, he also worked in the White House, as a staff economist at the Council on Environmental Quality. So, in 2001 when Paul asked me to join RFF's Board of Directors, I did, because I had great regard for RFF.
Do you have a “donor philosophy”? How does RFF fit into it?
I feel like I've been a tremendously fortunate individual, and after my years as a partner at Goldman Sachs, I felt that my task was to “give back”—but I had no idea how to do that. I knew I would need to learn a lot to become a value-added player, rather than just a check writer.
Joining the RFF Board of Directors gave me a learning opportunity and a chance to re-immerse myself in environmental policy—to interact with RFF researchers and other board members who brought a wealth of diverse perspectives.
What do you think RFF’s greatest impact has been over the time you’ve supported the organization?
Beginning in the 1980s, RFF came up with a conceptual framework for pollution pricing and credit trading. With efforts shared among RFF, the Environmental Defense Fund, Harvard, and others, creating the actual cap-and-trade market—not just some economic theory, but the actual design of the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990—was an enormous achievement.
RFF has for years now been the go-to center for expertise on carbon pricing, and largely for cap-and-trade analysis, as well. RFF has the highest-quality research, the best tool sets, great relationships in the policy community, and a commitment to address these kinds of problems. So, it’s not just that RFF has a legacy; RFF is an enormous asset that has great future significance. I am so proud to be a part of RFF.
Four ways you can support RFF
- Give on our website: Visit www.rff.org/donate to make a one-time donation with your credit card, or to set up a monthly recurring donation.
- Give by mail: Send your check to Resources for the Future | 1616 P Street NW, Suite 600 | Washington, DC 20036
- Give through a donor-advised fund: Donate through a DAF account at a community foundation or financial institution to support RFF while receiving favorable tax benefits.
- Give through a will, trust, or gift plan: Include RFF in your estate plans to provide meaningful, long-lasting support.