Not many Islanders can say they were born and raised in Tisbury, but Ben Robinson and his family are among the few.

Mr. Robinson, his two siblings and his children all took their first breaths in the Vineyard Haven home where his older sister Lilian now lives.

“Both my sons were born in the same room I was born in,” Mr. Robinson told the Gazette, during a wide-ranging conversation early this week in his cluttered architecture office overlooking Veterans Memorial Park.

Mr. Robinson, who turns 45 in April, still lives in Vineyard Haven for most of the year. An elected member of both the Tisbury planning board and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, he chairs the commission’s climate action task force.

He also was recently short-listed for the international Island Innovator Award, co-sponsored by the Clinton Global Initiative to recognize an island resident who, according to the awards program website, “has developed one or more solutions to island issues that have achieved substantial positive impact.”

The 12 judges for the awards include former heads of state from the island republics of Seychelles and Kiribati, as well as United Nations officials, educators and activists from the U.S. and abroad.

Mr. Robinson was recommended for the award by a group of Vineyarders including fellow MVC members, commission staffers and Dukes County commissioners, according to West Tisbury resident Bob Johnston of Strategy Innovation Group, which co-sponsors the global awards.

The short list was approved last week, and finalists are now being determined in advance of the April 25 live-streamed awards presentation.

The environmental activism that earned him a shot at the award began in the 21st century, but Mr. Robinson recalls becoming aware of the earth’s fragility while a sixth-grader at Tisbury School in the late 1980s, during the development of the Montreal Protocol on ozone depletion.

“I was writing a paper with my friend [about the Montreal accords],” he said. “That was my first realization that we were on a finite planet and that we have influence.”

Since then, he said, “I always felt we needed to rein in what we are doing.”

He was still at the Tisbury School when he discovered his professional vocation as an architect, stoked by an eighth-grade internship with then-emerging Hutker Architects in Vineyard Haven.

“I liked the design aspect of it, and I liked drawing,” recalled the graduate of Syracuse University’s five-year architecture program. He also got hands-on construction experience working with his father, a builder.

In the summers, and after graduation, Mr. Robinson took to the sea.

“I worked on Shenandoah as crew . . . and then When and If,” he said. The latter vessel, a schooner, was built for Gen. George S. Patton in 1939.

Other boats would follow. “I always liked sailing and I wanted to travel, so I used sailing to travel,” Mr. Robinson said.

Along the way, around 2001, he met another traveler, Elisabeth (Betsy) Ross Carnie, who would become his life partner.

The couple’s meeting echoes that of Mr. Robinson’s parents, Jeff — originally from New York — and Ingrid, who was Finnish. The two had met at sea, and lived aboard an Asian junk early in their relationship before starting their family on the Vineyard.

They also were keen competitive sailors, a trait that continues with their children and grandchildren. Ingrid Robinson, who died of cancer in 2001, is remembered with a prize in her name for the annual Pat West Gaff Rig Race in Vineyard Haven. More than once, her family members have won it in their schooner Phra luang.

While making the Vineyard their home, the elder Robinsons lost little time in introducing their children to the wider world.

After young Ben’s first month of kindergarten at Tisbury School, the couple relocated the family to Sri Lanka and then to Thailand, where Jeff Robinson spent two years building Phra luang while processing refugee requests for the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok.

His father’s job meant the children could attend the international school in Bangkok, which Mr. Robinson still recalls as remarkably well-appointed.

“In first grade, we had our own science lab,” he said.

Returning to the Tisbury School for second grade through eighth grade, Mr. Robinson went on to the regional high school, where he graduated in 1995.

After meeting Ms. Carnie a few years later, the two traveled in Europe and worked aboard boats before returning to the U.S., where she attended graduate school at Columbia University’s Teachers College while he worked as an architect.

While living in Manhattan, the couple returned to Tisbury for the birth of their first son, Runar Finn. Now 15, Runar is named for his Finnish great-grandfather “who fought the Russians in World War II on skis,” Mr. Robinson said.

By the time they were expecting their second son, Odin, now 12, Ms. Carnie and Mr. Robinson were ready to leave New York and settle on the Vineyard.

Like many other families, they’ve had to do the twice-a-year Island shuffle between residences. In Tisbury, they’ve lived in a series of rental homes, most recently settling in to a revolving winter tenancy at a vintage home near the Vineyard Haven library.

In summer, the family relocates to a cabin on the grounds of Barn House in Chilmark, the century-old summer colony across from Lucy Vincent Beach, where Ms. Carnie has cooked communal meals for residents for 10 years.

“That place really spoke to us because of the ethos we were trying to live by,” said Mr. Robinson. “For the Vineyard shuffle, we’ve really lucked out.”

He readily admits the tension between his architecture career, which almost exclusively involves second homes, and his conviction that all development harms the environment.

“I do struggle with it at times,” he said.

But he also believes that building projects can be designed in ways that lessen their environmental impact — a belief that led him to begin attending Tisbury planning board meetings until he was recruited as an alternate member, then appointed and finally elected to the body.

“I’ve always wanted to be in Tisbury [but] I hadn’t realized I wanted to be politically involved,” he said.

“What really sort of triggered my thinking was seeing projects where I felt had something to add. Around 2014 I started to pay a lot more attention.”

In 2016, Mr. Robinson was first appointed to the MVC by the Tisbury select board, which renewed his one-year appointment several times before the relationship began to fray over his obdurate focus on environmental issues.

“The last year I was appointed, the board really didn’t like what I was doing on the MVC,” said Mr. Robinson, who ran for and was elected to the town’s at-large commission seat in 2020.

“They thought, because they were the appointing board, I was answerable to them,” he said.

While admitting the uphill nature of the battle to reduce greenhouse gases, Mr. Robinson points with pride to some of the MVC’s achievements during his recent leadership on the climate task force.

Eversource is running a fifth electrical cable to the Island, as a direct result of the task force’s work in showing that demand on the Island was higher than the utility company had projected, he said. And the Eversource diesel generators on the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road are due to be removed by 2025.

The task force is also working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a study of the Vineyard supply chain, aimed at making the Island more resilient.

Mr. Robinson’s activism is also showing in the family’s next generation: Both his sons became involved in the student-led campaign to ban single-use plastic bottles on the Island.

But he didn’t lead the boys to this campaign, Mr. Robinson said; They found it on their own.

“When kids get political, it’s easy to say their parents are using them,” he said.

“When they get involved in stuff like that I try to step back, on purpose.”