Meet Walter James, Market Research and Policy Associate at DG+Design

Gavin Chisholm
May 17, 2023

DG+Design is excited to welcome Walter James to the team as an Associate on our Market Research and Policy team. Walter joins us from Portland, Oregon, and most recently worked for Carbon Collective, a sustainable investment platform. We recently asked him some questions to get to know him better. Here are his answers:

What brought you to political science?

Sure – I was born and raised in Okinawa, Japan until I was 14. My family moved to Oregon around then, and that is where I went to high school. After graduating, I felt I needed to take some time to discover myself, and decided on backpacking my way through Latin America. Using a mix of Craigslist rideshare offers (I know, a privilege of being male) and bus routes, I traveled down through California, along the west coast of Mexico, and into Guatemala. From there, I flew to Ecuador, and wrapped up in northern Peru. 

I came back with a new understanding that I was ignorant about the world. This motivated me to study History in college, and eventually pursue a Master’s in Social Science. I then went on to complete a PhD in Political Science, a process that included winning a Fulbright Grant to conduct field research in Tokyo. 

Where did your interest in the environment come from?

I started to think a career in academia might not have the impact I wanted to have, and so I asked myself, “What are the biggest problems facing us today?” A lot of my intellectual interest stemmed from the question: how do governments try to solve big, complex problems. Looking around the world, one complex problem that stood out is climate change, so I began researching big-picture trends in climate and energy policy. I found a lot of parallels between the challenge facing us today and the financial collapse of 2008, which was the topic of my PhD research. On the surface, diagnosing the problem and prescribing the solution are fairly straight-forward, but implementing the solution requires a strategic navigation of very complex systems.

What’s your favorite part about working in the renewable energy sector?

I just admire the sheer optimism and energy of the people in the space – especially all the young, brilliant minds at work. When I was working with Carbon Collective, I had to familiarize myself with Project Drawdown, and each Drawdown solution. Around the world, there are businesses and organizations being established to implement those very solutions. To me, that is the physical manifestation of optimism. 

Why did you choose to work with DG+? 

DG+ checks two big boxes for me: First, it empowers me to continue nerding out, doing research, and writing about it. Second, it gives me a platform to communicate that research to people outside of the ivory tower of academia. To me, storytelling in a compelling and accessible way is just as important as the research itself.

What do you hope to accomplish while on the DG+ Team? 

I’ve had many years of education, but not as many years of work. I want to make an impact wherever I am, and at DG+, I want to help guide the company’s development in a tangible way. Hopefully, I can help push the role of DG+ as an energy and sustainability thought leader.

Near or far, where in the world would you want to travel to next?

My wife and I were talking about going to New Zealand. We were thinking of going while we were in Japan during my fieldwork, but didn’t get a chance to. Other bucket list items for me are Antelope Island State Park in Salt Lake City, and a cross-continental road trip.

What's your favorite way to spend a day off? 

This is going to sound nerdy. I like to read and write about energy policy in Japan. I write a blog about that exact topic. Oh, there’s nothing going on today? Great. I’m going to do some research and write about it. That’s just how my mind works.

Otherwise, I’d try to spend time outside, and maybe bike along the Willamette River through Portland.

Tell us something fun or maybe unexpected about yourself. 

During my trip through Latin America, I went on a vision quest. I went up in the mountains in Ecuador, and sat under a tree for four days, fasting and drinking rain water as it made itself available. The incredible thing is that four days is just for the rookies! Some people go for as long as six, seven, eight days. I’m so glad that I did it though. I left the mountain in awe of the world, and with a sense of profound gratitude for everyone who’s ever taken care of me, especially my parents.


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