Jacob Moss leads effort to reduce global indoor air pollution

According to estimates by the World Health Organization, indoor air pollution from cooking fires and crude stoves leads to approximately 4.3 million premature deaths annually, in addition to risking the health of 3 billion people in developing countries. Poorly functioning stove also contribute to one-fifth of the black carbon emissions globally.
Jacob Moss, senior adviser at the Environmental Protection Agency, has been working with the State Department on a project to develop cleaner and...

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Listen to Jacob Moss’ interview on Federal Drive with Tom Temin.

According to estimates by the World Health Organization, indoor air pollution from cooking fires and crude stoves leads to approximately 4.3 million premature deaths annually, in addition to risking the health of 3 billion people in developing countries. Poorly functioning stove also contribute to one-fifth of the black carbon emissions globally.

Jacob Moss, senior adviser at the Environmental Protection Agency, has been working with the State Department on a project to develop cleaner and more efficient stoves that can be distributed to millions of homes.

The project, called Cookstoves Initiatives, aims to improve the lives of 500 million people living in 100 million households by 2020. So far, $800 million has been raised for the initiative, which is designed to combat indoor air pollution.

“What is truly remarkable is the extent to which Jacob has been able to draw in so many agencies, organizations and countries to support what is now a massive effort,” said Janet McCabe, the acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “It’s hard enough to influence your own agency’s budget, but to pull together investments from other agencies is incredibly difficult.”

For his efforts in developing and promoting Cookstoves Initiatives, the Partnership for Public Service named Moss a finalist for the 2015 Science and Environment Award. The award recognizes federal employees who have made important contributions in the area of science and environment. This includes biomedicine, economics, energy, information technology, meteorology, resource conservation and space.

Getting to know Jacob Moss

Federal News Radio asked each of the Sammies finalists questions about themselves. Here are Moss’ responses:

What three words best describe your leadership philosophy?

Vision, entrepreneurship, impact

What’s the best piece of advice (or words of wisdom) you’ve ever received and who gave it to you?

One summer in high school, I wanted to attend a costly computer science program and asked my father if I could go.  He offered me a deal — he’d pay half, if I’d pay the other half.  His reply jarred me, as I had almost no money saved.  He suggested I get a job if I wanted to go.  I had never had a job, but I found one, and I was able to attend the program.  My father’s guidance in this interaction has always been a turning point for me in terms of taking ownership of my life decisions, stepping out of my comfort zone, and following my passions.

Who is your greatest role model and why?

My mother is my greatest role model, for several reasons.  She did the bulk of the work raising my brothers and me and is largely responsible for giving us a moral compass with which to navigate the world.  After my parents separated, she had to go back to school to get a degree in her 40s, and then start an entirely new career, all with four boys living at home.  That she was able to not just do that, but also somehow maintain our sense of normalcy at home and then thrive in her career will always be a benchmark of resilience and strength for me.

What’s the last thing you read and what’s next on your reading list?

I recently read “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman.  It is an astonishing book that does more to explain human behavior than anything I’ve ever read.  It is also a remarkable study in human thought and insight, as Kahneman describes how he and his colleague pushed each other down their many research paths.  Next up on my shelf is “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character” by Paul Tough.

Who would you most like to have lunch with and why?

I would love to have lunch with Hank Aaron.  I’m a big baseball fan and he was one of my baseball heroes growing up — based entirely on his on-field accomplishments.  But as I age and get a deeper sense of what he must have gone through in terms of racial prejudice — from when he entered the Major Leagues through to the death threats he received before breaking Babe Ruth’s record – I’m more impressed by the fact that he was able to find success amidst that prejudice.  I would love to hear first-hand his story of those experiences and how he was able to succeed despite the obstacles.


The Science and Environment Medal is just one of the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies) presented annually by the Partnership for Public Service. View a photo gallery of all the Sammies nominees.