#94: Chasen Cunitz: From Oil Lawyer to EPA Geek, on Wanderlusting to Alaska & Witnessing Coastal Erosion (Part 1)

Ready for part 2? Click here!


Chasen Cunitz…works at the US Environmental Protection Agency and is a self-proclaimed EPA ‘super geek’ & is excited to spread the passion!

Chasen has to be 1 of the most fascinating Earthling you’ll hear on the show, given (among many things) the beautiful arc of his career: after working in the oil & gas industry in Alaska as a lawyer, Chasen left to get lost in the Alaska wilderness where he spent 8 years diving deep into remote hamlets and meeting native American communities affected by climate change. Only in recent years did he start working at the EPA.

We know what you’re wondering: what exactly is the EPA & what REAL impact have they had in their 50 years of existence? We’re glad you asked and we’re excited to share some stories in today’s episode!

We dive deep into…What’s the abbreviated story of how the EPA was started? What’s the EPA’s point-of-view on climate action & sustainability? Who exactly is the EPA’s audience? What unexpectedly good things are coming organically in nature through climate change? And most curious of all: What in the world does ‘catching a crab’ mean? It’s NOT what you think! 🦀

This episode is particularly valuable for…job seekers who have flirted with the idea of working for the government (the EPA is hiring), nature enthusiasts who appreciate the rawness of a place like Alaska and the soulful communities that live there, and finally anyone with a philosophical bone in their body who enjoys thinking about the meaning of life and their role within it.

Chasen will leave you optimistic, wanting to embark on the world & the mysteries it possesses ⛰️

Buen provecho (Spanish for “Have a wonderful meal”)! If you like what you hear, subscribe on Spotify or your favorite podcast app. It gives us the best kind of feedback, and in turn motivates us to keep making new episodes 😇


Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple PodcastsStitcher, TuneIn, or on your favorite podcast platform. 

Show Notes

  • [4:02] What does ‘catching a crab’ mean?
  • [5:34] How fast does a rowing boat go?
  • [6:03] What’s the purpose of the coxswain (in a row boat)?
  • [6:45] What are the other opinions on coxswains?
  • [7:04] Is the coxswain a small person?
  • [7:55] Do they have a microphone?
  • [10:20] You didn’t go to University of Washington, did you?
  • [10:49] How did you end up becoming a lawyer?
  • [12:07] Why Oregon?
  • [13:26] What got you interested in the climate, sustainability space?
  • [16:45] Chasen’s 1st experience with climate change in Alaska
  • [19:05] What specifically had changed at the coastline?
  • [22:08] What pulled you to Alaska?
  • [24:08] You started working for non-profits. Can you talk about that?
  • [26:16] One of the elders showed you the erosion of the coastline?
  • [27:18] How Alaska was sold to America by Russia. How Russia used Alaska for resources and enslaved Native tribes
  • [29:43] Why was the EPA created at the end of the day?
  • [33:11] Was there a direction or philosophy that kicked off the EPA?
  • [34:00] Has the philosophy of the EPA changed?
  • [34:39] (EPA) grants are for what?

Links from Episode

How would you like to see the EPA evolve to tackle new environmental challenges? Share your thoughts below 👇

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