Exclusive: Humboldt Mirror scores interview with former NEC director

Shove over, Barbara Walters. Former Northcoast Environmental Center director Greg King took a few minutes out of his humiliating retreat for a little Q and A with the Humboldt Mirror.

The man whose claim to fame was finding a forest that had never been lost and, more recently, running the NEC into its own contaminated ground will likely be remembered as a folk hero, a true eco-warrior, and a surprisingly crappy businessman.

Humboldt Mirror: So Greg. Man. Why don’t you start off by telling us how the NEC went broke.
Greg King: Well, I spent a lot of money and raised very little. I’m told that may have been a factor.

HM: Seems like that would do it.
GK: Yeah. We bought a house we couldn’t afford, and then dumped another boatload of money greening it out. Everything all solar and made out of carrots and shit. It was pretty cool, to tell you the truth, and it was like four bucks a month for the PG&E, before it got shut off. Also that whole cleanup thing on our property was way more expensive than you’d think, even skirting environmental regs the way we did. We ended up capping most of it, but don’t tell anyone because then we won’t be able to act all outraged when everyone else does it.

HM: You had some big shoes to fill.
GK: You have no idea. Every day it was Tim (McKay, longtime NEC director) did this, and oh, Tim did that, until finally I was like, ‘Yeah, well you know who else did all that? Fucking Jesus. Now shut the hell up.’

HM: Talk to us about the Klamath settlement.
GK: Yeah. Wow. We didn’t see that coming. By then money was already tight, because we had shifted toward a Baykeeper model, where instead of raising money by doing good things, you raise it by suing everyone. The advantage to that approach is that then you don’t actually have to do the good things. And in fact the fewer good things that happen, the more people there are to sue.

HM: But wasn’t doing good the point?
GK: The point of what?

HM: Of the NEC.
GK: Oh. Well, okay, sure, but clean rivers and healthy habitats don’t pay the bills. No one writes checks for species that don’t need saving and rivers that don’t need un-damming, you know?

HM: Right. So Greg, do you think maybe you weren’t the right person for the job?
GK: Maybe. It’s just too bad the organization didn’t need any trespassing or guitar playing, because I’m really good at both of those.

HM: What’s next for Greg King?
GK: Well I think my wife and daughter and I are going up to the Smith to unplug and get back in synch with nature.

HM: So you’re moving into a broken-down camper on the banks of the river?
GK: It centers us.

HM: Well thanks. I appreciate your candor.
GK: Yeah okay. Can I get that ten-spot now?

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