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What’s the Inspiration Behind Your Environmentalism? Here’s Some of Ours.

Just after college, I was a team leader in AmeriCorps NCCC — which is a program that sends teams of volunteers across the US to work on short-term service projects addressing the environment, education, and unmet community needs. My team and I were an idealistic group of 18–22-year-olds looking to make an impact in the world. In November of our first year, we hopped in our vans and drove to our second project — teaching in Chicago Public Schools. We were so excited.

Well, for a variety of reasons — that project was a disaster. I watched my team go from enthusiastic, committed, and inspired to discouraged, frustrated, and disengaged. In a fit of desperation, I went looking for something that might help us reframe this experience. And as I had done countless times before, I turned to a book. I went to the local bookstore and bought Oh, the places you’ll go by Dr. Seuss. That Friday during our team meeting, I turned off the lights, asked them all to lay down & close their eyes, and I read it to them.

That one meeting started a team tradition; during that project, we ended every week with something creative — a book, a movie, a poem, a song, a field trip — something to keep us inspired and remind us not to lose our perspective. And that small gesture took on significant meaning for our team. Art became our motivator, our source of wonder, our motivation to go out and keep working — even when things weren’t going our way.

Today, the environmental and social challenges we face are much bigger and more complex than what my team and I faced that fall. But the need for inspiration and motivation is still strong. So, for this Earth Day, our team at CapShift has graciously heeded the call to share the art that keeps us inspired and motivated. We hope you enjoy!


We read to know we are not alone. — C.S. Lewis

Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson is a book by a fearless female scientist who wasn’t afraid to be ahead of her time. It’s a book that urges humanity to recognize that we’re one part of a vast and diverse planet, and that we don’t have the sole right to benefit from or destroy it for all.

Small is Beautiful, Economics as if People Mattered by E.F. Schumacher prompts us to question the dominant paradigms of how things are created, allocated, and decided within our market system. It also asks us to think more deeply about the implications for humans and the environment of how capital is allocated.

The Ministry for the Future, by Kim Stanley Robinson provides a vision for how a global community can take action by painting a vivid picture of a future where our climate mitigation efforts were unsuccessful and the societal chaos that ensues.

The Overstory, by Richard Powers chronicles the stories of a few people and their attachment to the vast, slow, resourceful, interconnected network of nature and trees.


All we have to decide is what to do with the time given to us. — Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

An Inconvenient Truth is widely credited with raising international awareness of global climate change and reinvigorating the climate movement. This foundational movie also helped people see that they could be part of the solution as well as part of the problem.

180° South: Conquerors of the Useless follows the journey of a modern day adventurer who recreates the 1968 trip that Yvon Chouinard (founder of Patagonia) and Doug Thompkins (founder of North Face) took down to South America. The film subtly shows what would be lost if we continue to conquer nature rather than appreciate and experience it — encouraging us to think about ourselves as part of nature rather than apart from it.

Double feature: Great Barrier Reef IMAX followed by A Plastic Ocean juxtaposes a beautiful and majestic reef, which serves as home to a diverse and vibrant community of aquatic life, against the impact that tons of plastic garbage have on the ocean and creatures who live in it. These works bring full circle the devastating impact that humans can have on an ecosystem we don’t fully understand.

Artists and Photographers

Ansel Adams is a well-known landscape photographer and environmentalist who used his camera to showcase the majesty and beauty of natural landscapes.

Andy Goldsworthy creates site specific installations using natural materials and then documents the collaboration between the landscape and his materials with photography over time.

About the Author: Angie Santo-Walter is Managing Director of Marketing for CapShift. She leads CapShift’s marketing team where she is focused on creating strategic messaging, marketing programs, and outreach campaigns to help build CapShift’s brand as well as engage with and delight clients.

To read more articles on the intersection of impact investing and philanthropy, visit CapShift’s Medium page.




CapShift is an impact investing platform that empowers philanthropic and financial institutions along with their clients to mobilize capital for social and environmental change.

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Angie Santo-Walter

Angie Santo-Walter

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