From Doug Phelps, Chairman, Environment America; President, The Public Interest Network:

I am sad to report that Ed Johnson, the president of Environment America and our national network of 29 state environmental groups, has passed. 

Thirteen years ago, Ed was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer that accumulates in the bone marrow. The life expectancy for this cancer at that time was four years. Ed beat the odds in his fight with cancer, with the same grace and perseverance he displayed in his work with our organization. 

Despite the toll taken by his disease and the treatments it required, Ed barely slowed down. He lost none of his passion for the causes he cared about, for the organization, for his job, for his beloved wife and partner Annie, for his boys, Augie and Louie, and for all his extended family and friends.

Ed became president of Environment America in 2017, just as the organization’s action and advocacy were winning laws committing California and other states to 100 percent renewable or zero-carbon electricity; securing bans of single-use plastic bags and polystyrene foam cups and containers in states including Maryland and Oregon; and taking the Trump administration to court for unlawful rollbacks of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and energy efficiency standards.

Ed’s primary work for decades was as our network’s director of outreach and citizen engagement. Over his 30-year career, he canvassed and ran citizen outreach programs in 19 states and Washington, D.C., helping to raise millions of dollars and recruit more than 5 million people to contribute money or take action for the environment and the public good. 

Ed was a mentor to many of our staff, but he was also a friend. We loved Ed because he gave us everything he had -- even when he was sitting in a hospital room with an IV in his arm. And he brought humor to everything he did and a smile to everyone he met.

And Ed was the quintessential glass half-full guy. When he traveled cross country by car from Minnesota to Denver for our national board meetings just this past December (because his doctor advised him not to fly, think about that), he participated in every discussion, speaking up and contributing more actively than I’d ever seen him participate. 

I couldn’t help but think it was because he knew, this would be the last meeting or training he would ever get to attend. And I’ll never forget his advice offered in a debate about the future of a struggling program: “Let’s give it six more months, because what I’ve found in my life, is that things are never as bad as they might seem at the time.” This from a guy who knew he had weeks, not months or years, to live.

If we ever need a reminder that remaining relentlessly positive is how people can beat the odds, whether in life or in defense of our environment, look no further than Ed Johnson.

He’ll be missed for a long, long time.