Starting this month, we’re kicking off a new series on the Green Tie, featuring blog posts by the former presidents of NAEM. First up? Dick Pastor, Vice President of Shaw Environmental & Infrastructure Group.
During his term as president of the Board from 2002-2004, Mr. Pastor oversaw the implementation of the Association’s Management Excellence Certificate at Carnegie Mellon University.
Recently I had a chance to reflect on how time changes things. With the arrival of my first granddaughter, I thought about the differences that I have seen since my kids were born.
I started my career in the environmental field in 1969. The same year the Cuyahoga River actually caught fire in my hometown of Cleveland, and just a few years after an inversion caused a four day air pollution incident in which 80 people died in New York.
So what has time changed since then?
- Size and Concentration: Back then regulators were striving to reduce the amount of pollutants being discharged. Primary wastewater treatment was state-of-the-art, but direct untreated discharge was the norm. Today we are fighting to get to part per billion in discharges and have elaborate treatment technologies to ensure the water is of a better quality than drinking water standards. Exotic scrubbers, injection technologies, and continuous monitoring have replaced the smokestack, and modeling now takes into account not only local impacts but regional transport and soon global impacts as well.
- Workforce Composition: In the early days, if there was a woman involved in the environmental field most people thought that she was there to take notes or get coffee. Today some of our most respected professionals are women heading environmental or sustainability departments for major, worldwide corporations.
- Skills Required: It was understood in the early environmental days that you just had to be an engineer to be able to do anything meaningful in environmental work. Most thought that a bachelor’s of science was not enough but you really needed at least a Masters in a specific engineering discipline to lead and make decisions regarding the environment. If you were not an engineer then you were relegated to a sample taker. Today the skills required to be proficient in environmental work not only require technical skills but also business acumen and interpersonal skills. You now not only understand BOD but also the social impacts of your operations.
So time changes things, but does it change everything? I would say that throughout my career, the one most prevalent thing that has not changed has been the dedication and enthusiasm of the professionals in the field. And for my granddaughter’s sake I hope that it never changes. What have you seen change in your career?
Dick Pastor has more than 42 years of experience in the environmental field, including 18 years of government service with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources and 15 years with the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Before joining Shaw he was Director, Environmental Services for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., where he developed the environmental management and services program for the company, going from a staff of 1 to a staff of 27 professionals. He also played a significant role in the early development of the company’s sustainability program.
During the course of Dick’s career he has taken a personal interest in assisting others in the field with their personal and professional growth. Dick has served as President of the National Association for Environmental Management where he was instrumental in developing an executive training program for EHS professions that helped bring the profession into the Board room. Dick also served as Chairman of the Hazardous Waste Treatment Council, a Board of Director of the National Solid Waste Management Association and a Trustee of the Institute for Professional Environmental Practice.