Kin to the Earth: Colin Fiske

Colin Fiske at Clam Beach. Photo: Courtesy of Colin Fiske.
Colin Fiske at Clam Beach. Photo: Courtesy of Colin Fiske.

Here’s my secret: I have an activist crush on Colin Fiske. He is an idealist, driven by large and weighty principles like “fairness” and “community,” but in practice, Colin is a pragmatist, ever able to incrementally make our world better. He calls himself a “cynical idealist.” He is not a complainer but a doer—putting his values into action on a daily basis. He is a strategic thinker and keen problem solver, who uses his talents to benefit his local community. In short, Colin is a Kin to the Earth.

Colin’s career in activism began early. As he tells it, it began with an epiphany on the top of a preschool playground. In one of his earliest memories, Colin remembers having heard of the “environment”—a loose and amorphous term—but looking out across the playground it struck him: everything was the environment. e trees. e kids. Even the playground itself. ere, Colin recounts, he resolved to do his best for the environment because he knew that it mattered.

Fast forward a bit. Colin attended Pomona College. There he met his wife, Christine. He followed her to Central Florida where she worked towards her Ph.D. While in Florida, Colin became involved in labor organizing, working for the Walmart Alliance for Reform Now (WARN), which successfully challenged every proposed Walmart in Central Florida using local zoning ordinances, and the Florida Public Services Union.

After Colin’s wife secured a job at Humboldt State, they struck a deal. In exchange for moving across the country, she would be the primary breadwinner and Colin would get to be a full-time activist, providing for the family as well through tending to their impressive home garden. ey moved to Humboldt in 2011 and Colin soon found himself engaged with the Permaculture Guild and the California Native Plant Society. In 2014, Colin put his organizing skills to work on Measure P, the ballot measure that prohibited the propagation of GMOS (genetically modified organisms) in Humboldt County. Colin helped propel the GMO ban to a landslide, historic victory, as Humboldt became one of the first local governments to ban GMO crops.

Today, Colin’s activism is informed by his belief in “engaged Buddhism,” which Colin distills as: Try to do the right thing and make a positive impact, but don’t be attached to the outcome of your actions. As a full-time activist, Colin wears many hats. Colin is the President of the North Coast Co-op’s Board of Directors. He is the campaign coordinator for the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities. (Read more about the Coalition’s work on redesigning the Arcata Plaza in the Dec 2017/Jan 2018 EcoNews.) He works as a researcher for the Siskiyou Land Conservancy. He is on the steering committee for the Humboldt Permaculture Guild and is involved with the recently-formed climate action group 350 Humboldt.

Colin is good at what he does. He specializes in the minutia—the reports and commissions that no one seemingly pays attention to (save Colin)—that make up so much of our local government. He is a meticulous and careful thinker, teasing apart arguments to find their well- hidden flaws.

When asked for advice for up-and- coming activists, Colin said that he always thinks about a lesson from his boss from his labor organizing days: “In strategic planning, the first thing you have to answer is what you will do if they say no.”

Colin says that he’d like to spend more time in his garden, though if you mention that you need help or that you could use his brain, it is easy to drag him away. ( is author feels guilty for doing exactly that). His natural inclination is to help, after all. Once he is in, Colin gives it his all. e North Coast is lucky to have Colin as a Kin to the Earth.


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