Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Eric Doub's Green Story

I grew up with a father who studied Taoist texts in the original Chinese while waiting in foxholes in the Army in Germany in the 1950s. He protested the H-bomb in that same decade. As a Girl Scout leader in the 1970s in Boulder, Colorado, my mother retrieved a road kill deer and had her charges skin the animal, tan the hide by traditional methods, and make moccasins and drums. She also studied outdoor survival skills and spent 10 days in the Idaho back country with only a pocket knife. When it came to suburban survival, however, she drove the car my father claimed to have no ownership of (“It's Nancy's car!”). My father rode his bike, took buses and trains and walked, and never used the word car that I can recall: He would always say “Pollution-Waste Machine” or “Stinking Metal Box.” Car drivers were “Oil Spill Lovers” or "Emphysema Lovers."

With parents like that...
I could have either run the other direction, or followed in their worldview footsteps. I did the latter. In Junior High, I would get angry at seeing lawn sprinklers over spraying onto the sidewalks and streets and wasting water. I made up a flyer and put one on every car parked at the local recreation center: “Did you have to drive here to get exercise?” As a teenager I believed I would never own a car. Lo and behold, it started with a motorcycle...and our family now has the average American number of “Pollution-Waste Machines.”

In my college application essay in 1980, I started off with approximately this:
“It's something to consider. The Swedes are not freezing in the dark, and their
per capita energy consumption is about half of Americans’.” The rest of the
essay went about as follows: “…studying nuclear energy for a school paper “has
been an initiation into energy research, and a synthesis of goals – of self
preservation and academics – that may be the most important thing that’s
happened to me yet.
Current events make it desperately clear: We’re in
transition to a post-petroleum civilization. War in the Middle East, the arms
race, revolution in Third World countries all point to a reorganization of the
planet’s resources. And American lifestyles and consumption are at the center of
the crisis. When good, obedient, middle-class Americans – those who guard the
system – cannot buy gas or pay the heating bill or get enough to eat, our
society will turn upside down. Historian Howard Zinn calls this the Revolt of
the Guards. When this happens I want to be a citizen who knows, who has
researched, who has hope: for a sane, decentralized, democratic energy system
where the power is in the hands of the people and in biomass, efficiency, hydro,
wind, solar, and co-generation.”
When I did get into Stanford, I took all the energy-related courses I could: “Small Scale Energy Systems.” “Soft Energy Paths and Non-Nuclear Futures…” My undergrad degree? I called it “Sustainable U.S. Resource and Security Policies.”

Just another run of the mill bachelor’s degree.

--Eric Doub is president of EcoFutures Building Inc., Boulder, Colorado's leading Zero Energy Home builder.

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