In her day job as a senior associate at the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, Satya Rhodes-Conway consults municipalities and non-profit organizations about retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient.
In her night job as an out alderperson on the Madison Common Council, she serves on the city’s Sustainable Design and Energy Committee.
“When I was a kid, I wanted to be Wonder Woman, because I wanted to save the world,” Rhodes-Conway says. “I’ve always had a very strong feeling that it was incumbent on me to make a positive difference in the world and contribute to my community. I see global climate destruction as one of – if not the most important – issue of our time. Working on these issues is my way of trying to save the world.”
Rhodes-Conway’s work in environmentalism is an outgrowth of her interests in biology and ecology. “I thought I was going to work on things like saving the tropical rainforest,” she says.
But after receiving an MS in Ecology, she decided that academic life wasn’t for her, and Rhodes-Conway went to work for the State Environmental Resource Center. There she provided support and information to state legislators around environmental policy. She’s been working on environmental public policy ever since.
While environmentalism is at the center of her life, Rhodes-Conway tries to avoid being preachy about it.
“I feel like expressing that kind of judgment doesn’t help (people) move anywhere,” she says. “I hope that we’re all doing the best that we can, and we can all individually find ways to do better.
“Some people find it easy to compost and others can’t even fathom how to do that. I think people should do what they can and certainly push themselves to do more. But I’m most interested in changing the systems that make it hard for people to do the right thing.”