Michael Dorsey

Game Changer Michael Dorsey

Q&A with Michael Dorsey (PhD '05)

Visiting Fellow for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies
Founding member of the Center for Environmental Health

 

Dr. Michael K. Dorsey is a recognized expert on global energy, environment, finance and sustainability matters. In 1997, in Glasgow, Scotland, Dorsey was bestowed Rotary International’s highest honor, The Paul Harris Medal for Distinguished Service to Humanity. Dr. Dorsey is a “Full member” of the Club of Rome and in 2013 the National Journal named him one of 200 US “energy and environment expert insiders”. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Yale and the Johns Hopkins University, presently Dr. Dorsey is a limited partner in the Spanish-Japanese solar concern Univergy-CCC.

 

Dr. Dorsey was the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) speaker at SEAS on November 6, 2018. He kindly answered a few questions for us after his lecture.

 

SEAS: How can students best advance climate action?

MD: Stop talking about climate action and start advocating for and delivering renewable and efficient energy solutions. To be sure, there are other things outside of energy that contribute to a more sustainable future; right now, however, renewable energy has the greatest number of net positive feedbacks.

 

SEAS: What has been your most outstanding contribution to a more sustainable future?

MD: I don't think of my individual work as singularly outstanding. I would never characterize it that way. I have been fortunate enough and blessed enough to perpetually collaborate with bold, charismatically brilliant individuals who themselves cultivate a collaborative environment and a certain degree of camaraderie.

All serious endeavors require a lot of energy by a few handfuls of committed individuals. World-changing endeavors are almost always derived from groups that are passionately committed and execeptionally collaborative.

 

SEAS: Any encouraging sustainability-related news these days?

MD: Sustainability is the revolution that's irresistible. That in itself is encouraging.

We are in a space now that is unlike where we were five, ten, or twenty years ago. The energy revolution is changing the political and economic reality as we know it in a financially positive way. Therefore the upsides are tremendous. That was not the case for solar or wind even five years ago.

 

SEAS: What made you decide to come to school at SEAS?

MD: I had lunch with Prof. Bunyan Bryant and he asked me to enroll. Inspired by Prof. Bryant I changed my undergraduate major from engineering to environmental policy.

 

 

Dr. Michael K. Dorsey is a recognized expert on global energy, environment, finance and sustainability matters. In 1997, in Glasgow, Scotland, Dorsey was bestowed Rotary International’s highest honor, The Paul Harris Medal for Distinguished Service to Humanity. Dr. Dorsey is a “Full member” of the Club of Rome and in 2013 the National Journal named him one of 200 US “energy and environment expert insiders”. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Yale and the Johns Hopkins University, presently Dr. Dorsey is a limited partner in the Spanish-Japanese solar concern Univergy-CCC.

Dr. Dorsey is a serial organization builder and leader in for-profit, non-profit, scholarly and governmental realms. In the for-profit arena, Dr. Dorsey is an active investor and co-founder and principal of Around the Corner Capital—an energy advisory and impact finance platform. Thru Around the Corner, Dr. Dorsey maintains active relationships and agreements in the US and beyond with various partners from Barrett Capital, to the California Clean Energy Fund, to Silverleaf Partners, the Royal Bafokeng Holdings (South Africa), Univergy (Japan/Spain), the World Bank and many other institutions and high net-worth individuals driving the global renewable revolution.

In non-profit realms, in 1997 Dorsey helped to co-create the northern California headquartered Center for Environmental Health. In 2005 Dorsey and a partner co-launched IslandsFirst.org at the urging of the late Ambassador Stuart Beck—Palau’s first permanent representative to the United Nations. Dr. Dorsey sits on a number of non-profit boards. Notably he served 11 years on the national board of the Sierra Club—one of the largest and oldest US environmental organizations. In the scholarly world, for the first decade of the 21st century Dr. Dorsey was a professor in the environmental studies program at Dartmouth College. He has also been guest faculty at Wesleyan University (USA), the University KwaZuluNatal and the University of Witwatersrand (South Africa); Kungl Tekniska Högskolan (Sweden); and Erasmus University’s Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM) Sustainability & Climate Change Research Unit (The Netherlands).

Dr. Dorsey’s significant government engagement began in 1992 as a member of the U.S. State Department Delegation to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, “The Earth Summit.” From 1994-96 Dorsey was a task force member of President William Jefferson Clinton’s Council on Sustainable Development. From April 2007 until November 2008 Dorsey was a member of Senator Barack Obama’s energy and environment Presidential campaign team. In 2010 Lisa Jackson, the US Environmental Protection Agency (US-EPA) Administrator, appointed Dr. Dorsey to the EPA’s National Advisory Committee (NAC). Jackson reappointed Dr. Dorsey in 2012 and Administrator McCarthy reappointed him again in 2014. Further, in 2014, after more than two decades of collaboration and engagement with the United Nations NGLS—a specialized unit of UNCTAD (the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) designated Dorsey advisor on “climate, energy sustainability and SIDS (Small Island Developing States)”.

Dr. Dorsey has published dozens of scholarly and lay articles on a variety of environment, development and sustainable finance matters. In 2016 he became a contributor to the Wall Street Journal. Over decades Dr. Dorsey has been featured or provided his opinions in the world’s leading lay television, radio and print outlets from Al Jazeera, the Associated Press, South Africa’s Business Day, CCTV, CNN, Democracy Now!, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, the Orlando Sentinel, The Sacramento Bee, The Thom Hartmann Show, US News and World Reports and many other outlets.

Beyond these activities Dr. Dorsey has a legacy of work protecting biodiversity and promoting conservation, especially in forests–in the US and abroad. As a trained social forester, in 1996, Dorsey began research in the upper Amazon basin, in Ecuador. He has also worked in the sub-tropical and tropical forests of Costa Rica, Colombia, Peru and Brazil; as well as in temperate forests of the Pacific Northwest and New England. Dr. Dorsey’s Amazon research provides an in-depth, historical examination of individual and institutional ‘actors’ seeking to exercise control over biodiversity. Dr. Dorsey’s research has long been in cooperation and collaboration with academic colleagues, leading think tanks, advocacy groups, governments, corporations, multilateral agencies as well as affected forest communities—in the upper Amazon basin, the neo-tropics, and further afield at more distant sites of forest conservation and knowledge production from botanical gardens, to remote field stations and beyond.