May 8, 2009 – Volume 12, Issue 6
I N · T H I S · I S S U E


Cross Country

Leaving Los Angeles and heading for snow. An eight-day swing through Colorado and Massachusetts to see some very special college students. Colorado was nailed yesterday: school closures with two feet of late and heavy spring snow. A traffic fatality, "heavy delays at DIA," Interstate 70 closed. LA weather forecast to be in the 90s and I'm packing boots.

In my Alamo Rental PT Cruiser heading in the spitting rain and snow to University of Denver. First stop: DU. Second: Elway's Bar and Grill. Skye and I love the Broncos. She also loves DU hockey and lacrosse, the mountains. Denver has it all. It's mile high and proud of it. What a city!

After dinner, I drop off Skye and head to the Race Street home of Michael Totten and Jill Lancelot, two of my dearest friends and Greek Island sailing partners. About the time that Skye headed to DU, Michael and Jill pried themselves loose of the Beltway to craft a new reality. Their City Park digs are way cool; a diverse neighborhood with newly minted friends. Denver's their epicenter in a mere two years.

They're up and on their laptops, periodically sharing a grunt, fact, or reminder. Their professional interests overlap. Michael is a senior official at Conservation International, one of the world's leading experts on biological diversity and climate change. Michael's penchant for reading supports his enlightened global perspectives, so fresh, digital, and insightful. He is one of the best speakers ever. Jill works for Taxpayers for Common Sense. She's passionate about everything, and is the perfect guardian of our taxes.

It's good to see them. I'm home. No need for explanations of house rules or idiosyncrasies. Just be.

Sentiments at Altitude

Air travel is a mixed blessing. Sure, it's fast, but not fast enough! Right now, I'm on the plane with the blessing of 5.5 hours and an empty middle seat. The inevitable anxiety of air travel drains the soul, take your vitamins. I wish I could check my legs.

High altitude sentiments are among the greatest thoughts. I love tuning into my music and letting my mind drift, one insight after another. I met a man whose son suffers from pergosis, a disease marked by premature aging.

A time of reflection. The kids have lots of motivated friends, they're learning a lot, and they're great people. I'm so lucky to have friends with bonds profound; they are nurturing, gratifying relations. True friends are flexible.

The trip was a fast-paced immersion. I had time to think to share, hike, sleep, reflect, reminisce, and laugh. The most important things in life are family and friends, humor, respect, and love. I'm reminded to reach out more.
"Of all the EcoMotion newsletters, I like the Travelogues the best."
-EcoMotion readers

Red Rocks

Breakfast with Skye, Michael, and Jill; then off to REI to buy boots for winter in New Zealand. Skye's jazzed to be heading there for a semester abroad. DU sends the vast majority of students oversease Sophie is off to Israel; Skye's off to Dunedin in the far south of New Zealand. Leaving spring and reverting to winter, just miles from the Antarctic. Bundle up.

We head to Red Rocks for a hike, hoping that the snow had melted enough to allow us to get some exercise. Red Rocks amphitheater was developed by the City of Denver in 1931. Red rock precipices create a natural amphitheater, with magnificent views of the sprawling lights of Denver and the plains behind stage. It's a magical place to see concerts on a summer evening, a cool breeze from the plains below. I saw the Moody Blues there years ago.

Red Rocks is also a park and it's free and welcoming. People exercise in the amphitheater, a percussion group is set up on stage. We pass a guitar player strumming softly for his gal. I take his picture to Skye's chagrin. A visitor center provides a breathtaking history of rock concerts there. A loop trail gives us a work-out and time to experience being in remote geological formations: serene, humbling, temporal sensations. Our boots are pretty muddy.

Back on campus: I meet lots of friends, the roommate, sorority sisters. After picking up Skye's fellow DU sophomore and cousin Nate Chisolm, we're off for sushi at the So's restaurant. April So is one of Skye's best friends. Actually, she's family after visiting California four times. Her parents are so gracious, exuding warmth and good humor. Wonderful people, generous to a fault. They refuse to write us a bill. Things - even sushi dinners -- do come round!

Boulder's Climate Smart

Where's the biggest solar system east of the Mississippi?

Calling Boulder County this morning. Want to get a first-hand insight into its acclaimed Climate Smart program. It's like Palm Desert's AB 811/Energy Independence loan program. A vote of the people authorized Boulder to issue bonds to provide the capital for home and business-owners to invest in efficiency and renewable energy. The loans will then be repaid over time as a surcharge on property tax bills.

Susie Strife answers my call and is warm and welcoming. Given my Palm Desert consulting, "Sure, we'd really like to meet you while you are in town," was her enthusiastic response. Her boss, and the County's Sustainability Coordinator, Ann Livingston, can meet at 3:00.

Ann is generous with her time and insights. I'm learning a lot. She provides useful background. Enabled by Colorado House Bill 1350 and signed into law by Governor Bill Ritter just a month before California's AB 811 was approved as an emergency measure, Climate Watch is up and running. The program has $9.5 million in loan reservations.

What differentiates Climate Smart from the Palm Desert and Sonoma efforts is that Boulder County will not fund projects until the bond is issued. This is anticipated to take place by mid-May. Interest rates will be set to reflect bond market realities and loans will be consummated. All costs that are currently being borne by the County - advertising, admin, workshops, etc. - will be repaid by the bond issuance, resulting in a net-zero-cost program.

We spend an hour swapping notes, understanding each other's program's intents and drivers. We discussed EcoMotion's works with Palm Desert, Sonoma, Santa Monica, Burbank, ABAG, and CSCDA. Ann is really knowledgeable and sincere in delivery. I'm thrilled that Ann is going to come to the Palm Desert AB 811 conference on June 12. All the leading programs will be represented there: Palm Desert, Berkeley, Sonoma, and Boulder.

Like Sonoma, Boulder has multiple jurisdictions, ten municipalities that range in size, demographics, politics, etc. Nevertheless, since launching the first $10 million phase of the $40 million, 517 applications have been received for rooftop solar. The County has assured participants that loans will not exceed 6.75% for tax exempt entities and 8.75% for taxable entities. The County expects to be able to lend at 6.15% and 7.7%. A dominant program goal is to quickly reinvigorate the local solar industry.

Shep's E-Source

Michael Shepard is a great guy, soft-spoken and pensive, powerful in conviction and endurance. Genuine comes to mind. He's been at the helm of E-Source for over a decade and the company has expanded to serve over 300 utilities and corporate energy users.

I hired Michael in 1988 to work in the Energy Program that I directed at Rocky Mountain Institute. He was working as a writer and editor for the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and living in the Bay Area. Michael and Susan were eager to move to the mountains and start a family. The Shepards - Michael, Susan, Meredith and Rebecca - became very close friends.

My job at RMI was to launch a membership service for energy-efficient technologies. Competitek was modeled after Cambridge Energy Research Associates' oil and gas retainer service. "Tipi" George Frank provided the initial logo. Michael's first work was editing the "implementation papers" that Competitek was publishing to complement its technology atlases.

E-Source was moved to Boulder and prepared for sale. It was spun off from the Institute, and over time has had a number of ownership structures, including British ownership. Michael has stuck with the organization. Recently, staff purchased the company of some 90 professionals. I was lucky to see Bill LeBlanc on my brief visit.

Having originated the business in 1986 with Amory Lovins, utilizing a section of RMI's famous greenhouse headquarters, and fighting off iguanas and bugs from the banana-bearing jungle, and storing the original lighting "monographs" in the barn aside Hunter's slain deers, I'm a bit proud of an admirable, 20-year evolution. Michael's doing a great job navigating his firm.

Heading to Boston

Quick Devil's Food breakfast and off to Boston. A four-hour flight, rough entry into Logan, and rain in rush hour traffic. I'm in a Prius - a huge upgrade - and heading through the Ted Williams Tunnel, through "the Big Dig," then passing Fenway, and west on the Mass Pike. Bad driving conditions; winding roads of Weston to the home of Mike Wilson and Rosemary Boyle. Made it. Greeted by Otto, the new, most adorable pooch. Home again. We eat eggplant!

My daughter Sierra is on a roll; so fun to watch. She's senior at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. It's just north of the Rhode Island border, by Foxboro, home of the Patriots. Sierra is a religion major focused on international relations and world peace. Her passions are sustainability and environmental policy.

Sierra's got loads of friends, great classes, a house with three roommates not far from campus. All her gang are psyched about graduating in a few weeks. They love Wheaton. Some are a little leery of ending their college era. Sierra and I huddle to clarify her plans.

The Murphy Apple Orchard

The flyer for the dedication shows an apple dancing with an Earth. How fun. Working with Sustainability Committee members, and the college's recent Green Initiatives Committee, my daughter hatched an idea: Why not plant an orchard to demonstrate sustainability? "Why not?" was President Ron Crutcher's response. So quickly, the orchard is a reality. The orchard is named after Dr. Murphy, a beloved professor who died unexpectedly this past year. His brother-in-law was on hand for the dedication.

Rain persists so the dedication of the apple orchard is forced indoors. Dr. Crutcher speaks and recognizes my daughter in particular (which felt quite good), as does the head of Student Government, who has donned a blazer. Sierra and Chad, her orchard co-director, update the crowd about the orchard. Apple cider and baked apple goods are served.

The first phase will be planted directly behind the president's home and will consist of 15 trees and the holes are dug and ready. Ultimately, there will be 150 trees, including an assortment of other fruit trees, plums, peaches, and pears. On Earth Day, the orchard was dedicated. Just days later Sierra's dream was realized: The first fifteen Golden Crisp trees were planted by a team of five of us. Chad carefully placed each tree, fanning the roots. Mike and I were on the long-handled shovels filling in the holes. Allie and Sierra made sure that each tree was given love and watered carefully. In four years, they will bear fruit!

Michael B. Wilson, Artist

Touching base again with my buddy Mike is always great. We laugh and laugh. He and Rosemary were also crew members on my Greek adventure. We share laptop photo galleries. I met Mike in college at a time that his parents had nearly disowned him. How could a Colorado, Camel-smoking cowboy become an artist? His dad worked at a meat packing plant. Did you say "fine art?"

Michael B. Wilson proves that a man with vision and perseverance can succeed. Mike paints all sorts of things and he is really good at it. I'm struck by the quality of his current works. His signature work is indescribable. Every now and then I can relate to a Greek Island scene or a bird, or locomotive. I like the composites' elements. Mike is crazy creative. And then, out of necessity, he's a production artist too, for instance, painting movie sets and models. Now he's painting vintage cars, with very close attention to detail.

Mike teaches part time at the Museum School of Fine Arts. He's come a long way. I remember one time when he came to Colorado for a bronze casting class, the instructor got hurt, and Mike took over as teacher. I'm proud of him. He's living his passion and having a great time doing so, thanks in large part to his great partner of 21 years and fellow artist-extraordinaire Rosemary Boyle. They met in adjacent studios when she came over to tell him to turn down the music!

Julia Butterfly Hill

Julia Butterfly Hill is the featured Earth Day speaker at Wheaton. She was the one who sat in a redwood tree to save it from the Northern California loggers. Remember? When was that?

Ten years ago, and she sat up there for two years and eight days. Did she think she could do it? She never thought about it. Frankly, she had no idea of how long the sit-in would be. How was she selected? "No one else stepped forward." Winter was approaching. Imagine being 180 feet up a tree in howling winds and freezing rains with tarps for shelter on a plywood platform? She volunteered.

Julia and the EarthFirst support team trekked up to the ancient tree in the moonlight, naming the tree Luna. She was the oldest tree in the grove, and was slated to be chopped down. A rickety platform was hoisted into the tree, and Julia "Butterfly" Hill's aerial sit-in began. The logging company used helicopters to try to force her down. Nearby trees were felled to bang into Luna to knock Julia out of the tree.

For two weeks, the logging company blew off air horns at intervals to cause sleep deprivation. But Julia never came down. Despite loneliness, lack of privacy, having to exercise in the tree tops, frost bite, and more, in fact, she only came down when Luna was officially protected. Then, within 36 hours, she was in New York and on national TV!

I was struck by her attitude. She exudes confidence, and she is sincere. She thanked the professor BDS (Barbara Darling-Smith) who interviewed her. "You chose to give up your Wednesday evening to moderate this session." Julia, the daughter of a minister, has been mischievous all her life. Finally, she directed her energies. She made an international spectacle and made a difference. The tree was saved. She's has been giving 250 motivational lectures a year ever since. She's written a book, The Legacy of Luna. I'm going to read it.

Ocean Wave Energy Company

Foerd Ames, my elementary school friend, has been at the helm of Ocean Wave Energy Company for 31 years. Ever since he graduated from RISD, the Rhode Island School of Design, he's been promoting wave energy, and in particular, his own system. His web site is a most sophisticated repository of wave energy information. Foerd has lectured all over the world.

What fun to catch up! Our fondest memories are sailing as kids on Cold Spring Harbor, soccer at East Woods, hockey at the Winter Club. We've tracked each others' businesses, and have been in touch on the phone, but it's been 30 years in person. Today was pretty cool. Foerd is deep, witness his web site. Exhausting? Perhaps. Clearly a relentless advocate. Visionary!

Foerd formed Ocean Wave Energy Company in 1978. In 1980 he patented the Ocean Wave Energy Converter®, a tetrahedron module design that uses anchored, and stabilized buoys with flotable portions that are linked to driveshafts, following the motion of the waves. As the system bobs up and down, magnets pass by coils that generate electricity as the polarity is reversed.

Foerd rarely misses a chance to discuss Buckminster Fuller, whose Dymaxiom sky ocean world map made a lasting impression. The idea of linking the East and West hemispheres to manage peak power demands remains at large. We discussed the green revolution and new market entrants. Foerd is not sure if he can relish the green revolution. Big companies are funding wave energy projects that have been proven ineffective. Foerd says they insist on making the same mistakes, for instance using an inefficient tether design that requires a far greater radius, thus harvesting less power per hectare of space. He continues to have a voice, and to capitalize his design.