Signing of the California 100% clean energy bill, Dan is over the governor's left shoulder

Advocate

Meet one our network's advocates, Dan Jacobson, Environment California state director
Successful social change has many authors.
If, at any point, history determines that humanity was successful in our effort to restore our climate to health, there will be many people who deserve praise.
We’d like to propose adding the name Dan Jacobson to that list.
California wind farm / BLM, Tom Brewster Photography, CC-BY-2.0

In 2018 California, the fifth largest economy in the world, committed to 100 percent zero-carbon electricity by 2045.

The driving force behind this campaign was Dan Jacobson, a wiry, quirky 50-something advocate with a ready crooked smile.

Thirty years ago, Dan, or “DJ” as most everybody calls him, was a scrappy MASSPIRG organizer at Amherst College by way of New York City. Today, he is the state director of Environment California and regularly wears a suit, but in his heart, he’s still scrappy old Dan. 

The story of this campaign started in 2016, when DJ was sitting in his Sacramento office and fielded a phone call from California Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin DeLéon. The senator had caught word that advocates at Environment Massachusetts had drafted a bill to transition the Bay State to 100 percent renewable energy. He had no intention of letting Massachusetts get ahead of California on the issue. DeLéon asked for a copy of the bill.

DJ got Sen. DeLéon the language from our Massachusetts state director, Ben Hellerstein. Soon thereafter, the senator introduced the symbolically named Senate Bill 100: “100” for 100 percent zero-carbon energy.

DJ, to use the old cliché, is more of a people person. In particular, he’s the kind of people person who understands that bending the arc of history requires leverage and pressure — the kind of leverage and pressure that comes from having the right numbers and the right kinds of people on your side. He knew he needed both — numbers and key movers and shakers — so that voting to commit California to the boldest clean energy plan of its kind on the planet would serve the political interest of a strong majority of legislators.  

With that vision in his mind, DJ got to work.

First, he built a coalition. DJ and his team enlisted the support of more than 250 organizations, from faith-based groups like the California Catholic Conference to business organizations like the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and he put everyone to work.

He conceived of a campaign to lobby every single legislator in the Capitol. Together with his allies, they held 25 district meetings with lawmakers in their home districts. And they hosted lobby days in Sacramento to give constituents with diverse perspectives the opportunity to tell their representatives and senators directly why 100 percent clean energy was important to them and their district.

Dan and some of the people in the coalition wear the campaign's signature "100%" hats

He knew the optics mattered too. He got print, TV and radio outlets across the state to talk about the benefits of transitioning to 100 percent clean energy by organizing media events in 13 cities and towns. These news events featured business owners, environmental leaders, labor groups, public health advocates, faith organizations and local elected officials, all calling on state lawmakers to pass the bill. 

He enlisted support from bipartisan opinion leaders, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Leonardo DiCaprio, and placed newspaper ads throughout California to raise the profile and visibility of the bill.

And, in a classic DJ move, he ordered hundreds of embroidered baseball caps with “100%," and handed them out to coalition partners, legislators and anybody else he could convince to wear one. The hats became a common sight around the Capitol building. 

All that work to show public support and raise visibility paid off. On Sept. 10, 2018, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 100 into law. And a crookedly smiling DJ stood right behind the governor at the signing ceremony.

The work to save the planet from climate change is far from finished, and succeeding will require the time, energy and spirit of countless people. But we're proud of the role DJ played to get us that much closer.

Meet the people on our team