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Jonathan Wills, Part 3

This is a continuation of the interview with Jonathan Wills on October 21, 2013 by Alicia Zorzetto at the offices of the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council in Anchorage, Alaska. Amanda Johnson operated the video camera. Scott Sterling also participated in the interview. In this third part of a three part interview, Jonathan and Scott talk about the future of Alaska's oil-based economy and the Alaska Permanent Fund, creating a sustainable future, involving the younger generation, and advise for how to handle a future oil spill and avoid activist burnout.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2013-26-06_PT.3

Project: Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
Date of Interview: Oct 21, 2013
Narrator(s): Jonathan Wills
Interviewer(s): Alicia Zorzetto
Videographer: Amanda Johnson
Transcriber: Joan O'Leary
People Present: Scott Sterling
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Resources Library & Information Services, Alaska State Library, Institute of Museum and Library Services, Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
There is no slideshow for this person.

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Norwegian versus Alaskan permanent fund, and Alaska's future

Learning lessons from the past and being hopeful for the future

Environmental impact and future

Involvement of younger generation, and living in balance

Wind farms, and acceptance of and resistance to alternatives and change

Investigating Norwegian ship oil spill in the North Sea

Bonding and building friendship from the Exxon Valdez disaster

Advice for how to deal with future oil spills

Activist burnout

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After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


JONATHAN WILLS: No, Norwegian government is a -- currently a conservative government, but it's committed to controlling the excesses of corporate -- corporate -- SCOTT STERLING: The technique --

JONATHAN WILLS: It's using -- SCOTT STERLING: Right. JONATHAN WILLS: -- the permanent fund to promote small business. SCOTT STERLING: Right.

JONATHAN WILLS: One of the things the Norwegian permanent fund does really well is promoting not -- not so much municipal activity and state activity. SCOTT STERLING: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: As, small business in small places. I’ve just been there and looked -- been looking at it.

It is very evident there are many small communities the size of Valdez off the Norwegian coast. We went about 400 miles along the coast in a ship.

A lot of little villages, which would not be anything like as well as they are without the use of oil funds --

permanent fund to redirect it into small family business, mostly micro-businesses, which create jobs.

For people who then pay taxes to support public services.

It’s a model that works and I think -- I mean I’m -- I advocate that our country should look at.

In Scotland particularly there's a big debate at present about whether we should follow Norway’s example in the way the oil industry is managed by government.

The way the government gets revenue from the oil industry and in particular the way that the government supports society, supports small business.

SCOTT STERLING: I think that --

JONATHAN WILLS: I couldn't comment on the American --

SCOTT STERLING: Well, the Alaska --

JONATHAN WILLS: I'm a guest here. SCOTT STERLING: I think the --

The Alaska experience I think is going to play out in a lot of different ways, but probably one of the most significant will be the future of the permanent fund. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: In the future generations. Because at some point oil will cease to be -- JONATHAN WILLS: Uh-huh. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: -- our chief resource and export.

And at that point, the earnings of the permanent fund will become the chief source of finance for the state government and -- JONATHAN WILLS: In perpetuity?

SCOTT STERLING: And the needs of this state are quite large. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: Because of its size and the fact that it is sparsely settled in the vast majority of it.

And I think there are implications. Like I love talking about the future and implications and trying to get our minds around some of the things.

And what is going to the future of rural Alaska after oil is gone. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh. JONATHAN WILLS: Yeah.

SCOTT STERLING: What is -- what is going to be the future of the fishing communities?

What is going to be the future?

Can we just -- is it going to be enough to just say oh let’s look at what it was like pre-oil. Well, no, it’s not.

Because it's a constant process of change and nothing is ever going to be as it was entirely.

JONATHAN WILLS: We’re facing the same issue in Shetland. We’ve had a very salutary experience in the last 10 years.

We had an administration in the Arctic Council -- the Islands Council, which saw the stock market going up all the time.

We had four hundred million pounds, that's six hundred million dollars, in investments for 22,000 people and they thought we’re rich.

We can do what we like. And they started building things, you know, a big -- a big civic -- not civic center -- museums and cultural centers, and there was money for this and money for that.

Mostly buildings. And also for enormous industrial projects, which failed.

And all of a sudden the market stopped going up like that and went down like that in 2008.

And when the administration that I’m part of took over in 2010 elections, we opened the books and discovered that we were selling $150,000 worth of stocks and shares every day.

365,000 -- 365 days a year just to balance the council’s books. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: After two years and nearly 600 job losses we've cut that expenditure to 50,000.

That's 50,000 a day. We're now were selling only 50 -- 50,000 pounds or about $75,000 worth of shares a day.

Clearly, it's got to come down a lot.

So unless you look after your permanent fund, we face the prospect that our permanent fund would extinguish -- the draft would go to zero by 2017. SCOTT STERLING: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: We've now got to get it back.

So having a permanent fund doesn’t make you permanently rich. What it does do if you --

if you husband it properly, it gives you a reserve, which will earn money.

Which you can use to get a few little extras on top of it, you know.

SCOTT STERLING: And, you know, the Alaska Permanent Fund is such a -- a - JONATHAN WILLS: Absolutely, on a much larger scale.

SCOTT STERLING: A model in and of itself.

Right now the two to three billion dollars of interest earnings that we get from the permanent fund is financing the permanent fund dividend. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: It is available for appropriation, but the principal of the permanent fund is not available for appropriation without a constitutional amendment.

And that was part of the assurance -- JONATHAN WILLS: Very wise.

SCOTT STERLING: That the principal would not be tinkered with from time to time from, you know, regime to regime. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

SCOTT STERLING: So I think that that -- when I think about -- how do I want to tie this together?

I would tie it together this way, that let us learn all the lessons we possibly can from the past both on technological, political, economic, natural, ecological dimensions. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: But let’s tie them to where do we see ourselves going as a people.

Where do we want to be as a people relative to preserving the earth as a sustainable place to live.

And I agree that while the fossil fuel consumption model is probably going to continue until it’s done.

Unless something innovative occurs.

JONATHAN WILLS: It's okay. My son’s working on -- SCOTT STERLING: Right -- right, well I -- you -- could you -- JONATHAN WILLS: But they're not commercial yet.

SCOTT STERLING: Right. I mean, you know, Edison tried what a thousand and one different things until, you know, car -- JONATHAN WILLS: Eighty five (inaudible) --

SCOTT STERLING: Carbonized cotton filaments seemed to work.

Right. You -- you don’t know, but you can probably safely say technology will present innovations that none of us are able to foresee right now. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

SCOTT STERLING: And that will come with good and bad consequences. That will come with good and bad implications.

I like to think that if we reach out to the younger generations and try and pass along a bit of wisdom about what we learned.

Whether it was from Exxon Valdez or anything similar to it,

then we’re probably keeping faith with them that while problems may seem daunting at times, and are daunting at times, and you can never assume that there's going to be an easy solution to anything. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: You can -- if you apply energy and good faith and --

I guess I'll -- I want to say if you can have -- be lucky enough to have leaders and inspirations like a Stan Stephens -- JONATHAN WILLS: Yeah.

SCOTT STERLING: In your coderie (phonetic), then you work hard and chances are you’ll succeed.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: So you’re hopeful?

SCOTT STERLING: I'm very hopeful. I'm very hopeful.

I don’t believe in being a pessimist about it, because I think it’s a --

I think pessimism's another way of saying oh I give up. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

SCOTT STERLING: And for some of us it's just not in our nature to give up.

I don’t think Stan would approve.

And what Jonathan said and many people observed it, Stan really wouldn’t get mad at you.

He would just say I’m really disappointed.

And that would have a way of making you go, oh -- JONATHAN WILLS: I felt terrible. SCOTT STERLING: I feel -- you know --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: No, I should want to end by reading this one quote from your book and I’ll follow it with a --

JONATHAN WILLS: Where did you get that?

ALICIA ZORZETTO: With a question.

JONATHAN WILLS: It’s out of print. ALICIA ZORZETTO: It’s not a bad -- JONATHAN WILLS: I thought it was safely out of print.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: It's not a bad quote. It just -- it kind of spiked my -- my questioning.

I know you’re hopeful and you spoke a fair bit about the human element of it, but I thought I’d read this and then ask you more about the environment element of what we’re doing as a globally not just in Alaska.

You can answer it for Alaska. You can answer it for, you know, for Europe or globally as well, but I’ll just start by saying okay --

So this is -- this is from you --

we know that most of the oil produced from the world’s oilfields eventually ends up in the sea in one form or another through the global cycle of extremes between air, land and water.

We know then seven years or so a cubic mile of mid-ocean water can find its way to the North Pole.

We do not know if or for how long the sea can accept and deal with all this carbon which Mother Nature has locked up in coal deposits, gas vaults and oilfields over hundreds of millions of years,

and which we have released in just two centuries.

The sea's chemistry is changing. The change -- this change can cause sores and cancers in bottom loving fish as it has done to the Baltic and to the Southern North Sea.

We can avoid eating sick fish by throwing them back over the side.

As long as the damage goes no further things may be all right, but scientists think that we may be approaching a biological threshold when the world’s ecosystem will change irrevocably in a way that has not happened before.

It's like carrying out an uncontrolled experiment in the chemistry lab not knowing if it will blow up.

So I’m just curious as far as the environment's concerned.

Do you think, you know, after -- we have RCAC’s. We have -- we have this knowledge, but at the same time the oil companies are a global industry, and they change their behavior where they go.

And what we have in Alaska is different perhaps than what we have or you know we can say for certain than what we have in the Gulf [of Mexico], right?

SCOTT STERLING: Right. JONATHAN WILLS: I wrote that 20 years ago. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yes. JONATHAN WILLS: (Inaudible) --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: And my question is how, you know, has -- do you agree with this kind of dystopian view or are you a little bit more --

JONATHAN WILLS: Well, it's still happening and in a way it's worsened,

because one of the things I didn’t know much about at that time was plankton. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: Since then I've got a plankton net on my boat and a microscope and every day in the summer I show people the plankton.

And in every single drop of water you can see -- nearly every one you can see a minute piece of plastic. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: Oil is used the plastics industries. If we didn’t have a plastics industry, there'd be piles of black stuff that wasn’t used.

And the plastics industry is slowly, because we use plastic, filling the world’s ocean with tiny little pieces of plastic too small to see which can interfere with filter feeding organisms like mussels which are at the bottom of the food chain.

It can interfere with the plankton themselves, with the zooplankton. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

JONATHAN WILLS: The animal plankton.

Every time you wash -- put a garment with artificial fiber in it in a washing machine and the water that comes out of that washing machine there are billions of tiny little fragments.

And they go into the ocean mostly, because they get through the filters of the sewage treatment. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: So that aspect of it has worsened.

Oil spills from tankers seem to have reduced, and that’s partly because of the issues we've been discussing here.

So improvement's possible.

Oil spills from land, I don’t know.

You know it's we're -- we're about to open up huge oilfields and gas fields west of Shetland which will contribute about 800,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year to the atmosphere which eventually is missing.

I think the experiment -- the uncontrolled experiment is well under way.

Whether we'll survive it or not I don’t know. Certainly the earth will survive it because there are many other organisms apart from us which will just colonize it. Whether we'll survive is the issue.

It's not -- it's not -- for us that’s the issue, whether the human race can survive what we’re doing.

That's why I'm very pleased that my son who's a -- one of my sons is an engineer -- has decided not to go into the oil industry for the money.

He's going into -- he's working in wave energy. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Okay.

JONATHAN WILLS: And tidal energy projects, which is not yet commercial.

But then -- that -- they have no money.

If the kind of money that has been invested in the oil industry by government through tax breaks and in the nuclear industry by direct support and underwriting.

If that sort of money had gone into wave power and tidal power, we would now have up and running commercial systems.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: So maybe that kind of goes along with what Scott you mentioned as far as educating the youth to try to kind of change where we’re going,

and make them knowledgeable about what’s at stake, perhaps.

SCOTT STERLING: Well, I happened to be around when Jonathan wrote that book and I told him he should name it "An Inconvenient Truth." And, but he didn’t listen. And look what happened.

JONATHAN WILLS: Somebody else used that.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: I know that name.

SCOTT STERLING: Yes, I think you’re right. I think that --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Do you remain hopeful when it comes to --

SCOTT STERLING: Absolutely I do. I think that the younger generations are going to lead us older folks on this.

The Renewable Energy Alaska Project -- REAP which is, you know, has to fight sometimes to keep its existence, but is very successful in bringing awareness and education,

and showing us with pilot and experimental projects that we can begin to lessen our dependence on nonrenewable energy sources,

maintain a satisfactory standard of living, and treat the earth with much more respect, including the oceans which the oceans are the harbingers. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: And all -- as Jonathan says just look in the microscope.

I think that dependence on fossil fuel is -- it's not the entire problem we have, but it's at the core of a lot of our patterns of consumption in the west.

Particularly in the United States and North America where we enjoy a very high standard of living, but it is largely due to us consuming the disproportionate share of resources. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

SCOTT STERLING: And the imbalance that all that represents sooner or later will correct itself if we don’t correct it ourselves.

And I think that, you know, what Jonathan was pointing out some odd years ago during Brear [oil spill] and the aftermath is look you can -- the earth can take a lot of punishment. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: And can heal fairly quickly if cared for.

But it can’t just be a relentlessly pummeled punching bag for our -- what we think we have to have as opposed to what we really need.

And I think that adjusting expectations is going to come with successful entrepreneurs of the next --

of the coming generations are going to be the ones who say we can have relatively efficient energy with acceptable cost to the environment

and still provide for essential human needs and still thrive.

No one's going to tell you you can’t go out and make your fortune.

JONATHAN WILLS: Then -- then we get a proposal for a wind farm -- a big wind farm in the Shetland Islands --

a very big wind farm, which will be a net exporter of energy through a cable to the main -- mainland of Scotland and it would provide about five percent of Scotland’s electricity needs.

And it's away at a piece of bog that nobody ever goes to and we have a protest group -- SCOTT STERLING: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: -- to tell us that oh it just -- wind farms do awful things to birds and to people. Well, they do if they’re too near.

This one's been very carefully planned so it's at a safe distance.

And they -- they're very excited. Basically they don’t like the look of them,

and they took the government to court for giving it planning permission and it's still in court.

They have been totally silent about the two billion that's being spent on a new gas plant and to upgrade the oil terminal to keep it going,

which together as I say will contribute some 800,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year. Ttotally silent.

And when I accused them of being NIMBY's [Not In My Back Yard - NIMBY]and raised this issue with them, they said, "Oh, it's a different issue."


JONATHAN WILLS: It isn't a different issue. It's the same issue.

SCOTT STERLING: Yeah. Look at the common thread. The common thread is always what's going to be the carbon output -- JONATHAN WILLS: Yeah.

SCOTT STERLING: And input to this proposal or this project.

JONATHAN WILLS: Great to see these -- the wind farm on Fire Island. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh. SCOTT STERLING: Uh-huh.


JONATHAN WILLS: That’s a very small one. SCOTT STERLING: It’s a small one, but --

JONATHAN WILLS: This is a windy place. SCOTT STERLING: It's a good start.

JONATHAN WILLS: The wind we've had this week, you could generate a lot of electricity.

SCOTT STERLING: Cook Inlet's been looked at and Knik Arm more than once for tidal power options, too.

In World War II, the government studied Passmaquoddy Bay in Maine for -- JONATHAN WILLS: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: -- a tidal power function.

It’s -- there's always going to be resistance. There's always going to be differing views. I think there's always going to be.

But what you can’t deny again it's hard sometimes to get people to focus on the evidence based, you know, like -- JONATHAN WILLS: Don't try, they'll --

SCOTT STERLING: Medicine -- medicine ideally should always be evidence based, yeah, but at the same time there are people who say sometimes when I don’t know what the evidence is I’m going to pursue an idea that -- ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

SCOTT STERLING: That other people don’t know or have dismissed.

I may just chase it down.

I may just accidentally look in the Petri dish and notice that there's a funny mold growing there. JONATHAN WILLS: Yeah.

SCOTT STERLING: That might actually help prevent infection. Right. JONATHAN WILLS: Penicillin here we come.

SCOTT STERLING: You know, and so I think that you can across the board put those into economics and other considerations.

JONATHAN WILLS: But we're optimists, Scott. We're optimists. Because you keep saying and I keep agreeing with you that we can learn from experience.

My bitter observation is that every generation has to learn this all over again. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Huh. JONATHAN WILLS: And so far that’s --

SCOTT STERLING: Well, yeah to an extent -- JONATHAN WILLS: But hopefully -- (both talking at once and inaudible)

SCOTT STERLING: I always think of the -- I don’t -- I think it's more of a logarithm than it is a linear equation.

I think it's more of a continual process of every dimension. It's like calculus.

It's not just math. It's not just addition and subtraction.

It's not zero some gains. What it is is that every time you think you’ve got something figured out you realize you forgot something else, right?

And it goes to show you that oh, my goodness --

JONATHAN WILLS: The story of my life -- that book -- SCOTT STERLING: Yeah.

JONATHAN WILLS: That book -- that book is completely wrong. I accepted the official -- SCOTT STERLING: Right.

JONATHAN WILLS: -- version of events. Eight years later somebody I don’t know who --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Is the quote okay?

JONATHAN WILLS: Yeah, that’s okay but the facts in it -- somebody dumped a load of papers on my boat in a plastic shopping bag. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Hum.

JONATHAN WILLS: And I thought it was a passenger on the boat had left it and I nearly took it up to the lost property at the police station,

and I thought I better open it and see if I can identify whose it is.

And inside were all the papers about the wreck. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Hum.

JONATHAN WILLS: Including the log books in Norwegian of what happened to that ship when she was in Norway five days before she came to Shetland and -- ALICIA ZORZETTO: Wow.

JONATHAN WILLS: And the inquiry had failed to discover that what went wrong was the main high pressure steam pipe -- SCOTT STERLING: Right.

JONATHAN WILLS: -- of the boiler burst and was welded up.

And when she put to sea without it being officially inspected -- it was inspected by telephone from Bergen. It was -- it was -- new year, I mean,

people didn't want to go all the way to Mongstad to the terminal and actually look at it.

So she sailed, and -- SCOTT STERLING: And the weld failed? ]JONATHAN WILLS: -- she was out of class. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Hum.

JONATHAN WILLS: The weld failed, that’s why. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Hum.

JONATHAN WILLS: That’s why it happened and it was so embarrassing so the ship inspection companies -- one of the world’s most respected ship inspection company had fallen down on the job.

The insurers had got the government to pay up. Basically, the British government paid in the end.

Lots of people didn’t get their compensation then or now.

And the papers had been quietly buried in an insurance company vault in London. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: And they just smoothed it over.

That’s what happened. I tried to get a second edition published. Nobody was interested.

SCOTT STERLING: I told you that title.

JONATHAN WILLS: An Inconvenient Truth. SCOTT STERLING: Anyway.

JONATHAN WILLS: Thank you for having us. SCOTT STERLING: Thank you.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Any final thoughts?

JONATHAN WILLS: My mother always said you were to say that before you left -- thank you for having us.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Thank you for having this -- for allowing me to interview both of you. JONATHAN WILLS: Well --

SCOTT STERLING: Thank you very much. I do appreciate the opportunity and --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Any final thoughts.

JONATHAN WILLS: Well, it's brought back some grim memories. Some really sad memories, but also -- ALICIA ZORZETTO: I guess --

JONATHAN WILLS: -- the bizarre fact that I -- some of the nicest best friends I ever made, I made as a result of this utter catastrophe. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: In Prince William Sound, Alaska. And I would never have discovered Alaska.

I can’t think why I'd ever have come here.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: For -- for future spills, do you have anything to say perhaps to someone who's going through it, for example in the Gulf or, you know, --

JONATHAN WILLS: Well, once it's happened -- ALICIA ZORZETTO: -- in the future?

JONATHAN WILLS: Once it's happened, it's too late. But --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: But as far as --

JONATHAN WILLS: You want to stop it happening just -- just hold their noses to the grindstone.

Make them do what they -- what they say they’re doing.

Make them follow their own procedures, because BP’s procedures and Exxon’s procedures, if followed, are some of the highest standards in the world. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: That’s not the problem. It’s not a technical problem. It’s a political problem.

And a financial problem, because there's financial pressures not to follow their own rules.

And, of course, governments are doing more to keep them on course, but can always do a little bit more.

So it’s down to our representatives -- the governments to do it.

SCOTT STERLING: We had a mantra that was -- in meeting with people both in the Sound and in Shetland even was -- be united, be informed. JONATHAN WILLS: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: And I think that those two are very important that you should do your utmost to stay informed. And it's not easy, but it's essential.

I think the other part of it is to realize that as in military doctrine no plan survives encounter with the enemy.

Whatever plan you have is bound to be altered by events.

And because human beings can be quite unpredictable and can be prone to error and oversight, even in good faith,

that the price of safety is this concentrated effort -- JONATHAN WILLS: Vigilance.

SCOTT STERLING: At vigilance, which is exhausting for even people who are being paid to do it. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh. JONATHAN WILLS: Yeah.

SCOTT STERLING: Right. Let alone volunteers and fishermen and citizens who are just trying to hey, you know, I love this place and I don’t want to see it hurt. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: And I don’t want you guys to not be here either. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: But I've got one piece of advice. If you want to avoid activist burnout, have something else in your life, even at the worst of it.

I am a gardener. That tends to be my escape.

I grow about half of my own food, even on the same latitude as Anchorage. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: Which is what we are. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: And I find that is an enormous help to keep things in perspective.

A lot of non-verbal processes go on in your head when you’re gardening. SCOTT STERLING: Yeah.

JONATHAN WILLS: And when you’ve -- just an hour a day is all I do.

And at the end of that my mind is always clearer. I know what’s the most important thing I have to do next, and to hell with the rest of it.

And I can think things through without even realizing I've thought that.

SCOTT STERLING: And realize you’re not alone.

JONATHAN WILLS: Oh, you're not alone. SCOTT STERLING: You can share. You can share.

JONATHAN WILLS: I can always ring up, you know, I can always have a bright idea in the morning about lunchtime and ring up Alaska and Scott says, "Do you realize it's three o’clock in the morning?"

SCOTT STERLING: But you can. And I think that you can -- yeah, you should -- you should not burn people out.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: No. And sounds like -- both of you mention the friendships that you made so even -- SCOTT STERLING: Oh, yes.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Over a disaster there's -- there is a -- SCOTT STERLING: Uh-huh.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: This room for bonding and growth -- SCOTT STERLING: And human --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: As a community. As a group.

SCOTT STERLING: You mean to -- humor is critical.

JONATHAN WILLS: I was at -- during one of the ghastly crisis, I think you were still city attorney. SCOTT STERLING: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: We were in Cordova in a restaurant the night I met you and I have never laughed so much in my life.

And he wasn’t telling rude jokes or anything. He was -- there was nothing bad about -- just incredibly funny attitude.

That's how -- that's how Scott coped with it by making jokes. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: Terrific jokes.

SCOTT STERLING: You have to, yeah.

JONATHAN WILLS: You got into trouble about that. We -- SCOTT STERLING: Yeah.

JONATHAN WILLS: You did a pantomime, do you remember that? In Cordova. Which ended up in federal court.

SCOTT STERLING: You do need to realize that people, especially if they’re dedicated and care deeply, will overextend themselves.

And it's no different for activists and people who are trying to fight for what they think is the right thing to get burned out than it is to have a burned out tanker captain who's been on duty too long. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

SCOTT STERLING: Right. Or an airplane pilot who's been on duty too long. I mean we have laws that say there are limits to what a human can do on a certain day at a certain level. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

SCOTT STERLING: It's no less true I think in the -- in the activist world.

You have to realize that that you can’t just count on the one person to always be there. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

JONATHAN WILLS: But you could on Stan.

SCOTT STERLING: Well, yeah, it's extraordinary -- there are the extraordinary who I think are -- JONATHAN WILLS: And Dan Lawn.

SCOTT STERLING: -- inspiring. And Dan, as well, and many others, too.

But at some point even the most hard core will go, you know, I -- I'm sort of at wit’s end. And I'm at body’s end, you know.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: It’s funny cause you mentioned Rick and Rick has meant -- has said the same thing about both of you as being his --

his individual that he gains a fair bit of -- SCOTT STERLING: Well --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: -- inspiration as well, so it seems like there is a group in the community.

SCOTT STERLING: That's because we slipped him a few hundred bucks so --

We didn’t want him to tell the truth about us so --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Thanks so much, guys. I appreciate it.

JONATHAN WILLS: Thank you. SCOTT STERLING: Sure. Thank you.