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2011 Forty Under 40: Jesse Kharbanda

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About me...
Jesse Kharbanda
Executive director
Hoosier Environmental Council
33
Web sites:
Social media:
On my hip:
iPhone
Most-used apps:
Facebook
Gmail
IBJ
New York Times
Indianapolis Star
E&E Daily
Grist
Favorite stuff:
Books, including biographies, political history, environmental science, astronomy and religion; movies, including "My Cousin Vinny" and "Jab We Met"; historical dramas, such as "Beckett, A Man for All Seasons"; TV shows, including "Fareed Zakaria GPS," "60 Minutes," "The Cosby Show" and "Highway to Heaven"; neighborhoods, including the Central Canal area, the War Memorial area, Near Northside and Fountain Square; commentators, including David Brooks, Noam Scheiber, Paul Krugman, Richard Lugar, Bradford Plumer, David Gergen and Andrew Sullivan
 

Jesse Kharbanda reels off a list of the Hoosier Environmental Council’s proudest recent accomplishments: collaboration with the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce on public transit legislation; its work with clean-energy technology companies to promote renewable energy legislation; working with the Richard G. Lugar Center for Renewable Energy on a high-speed-rail forum.

“I’d like to think,” he said, “that there’s a clear and compelling identity for HEC, one which is passionate about promoting environmental change but is grounded in good economic and scientific thinking, that is willing to be thoughtful in how it communicates, communicates in a way that’s inviting, that’s empathetic, that is open-minded, that is willing to see things from different points of view, that is willing to see merit in traditional adversaries.

“That ethic, which I’d like to think has permeated our staff as a whole, opens doors and earns trust.”

Kharbanda grew up in St. Louis with a mother who emphasized travel. By the time he was a teenager, he’d already been to 40 states and several continents and had established “a strong emotional bond with nature.”

By college, he knew environmental preservation was his future. His work has taken him from the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago to founding the Indiana Coalition for Renewal Energy and Economic Development, an organization that brought together businesses, public health groups, labor and environmental groups under one tent to promote clean-energy policy, to the Hoosier Environmental Council.

In the past few years, he has managed a statewide campaign to pass renewable-energy legislation, developed the framework and wrote legislative language for an energy and technical-assistance program in the 2007 farm bill and built support in Illinois, Indiana and other states for federal clean-energy legislation.

“I’ve helped bring the HEC in front of audiences that we have not been in front of before or were not given as much regard,” he said.•

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