I don’t think my parents have ever applied the terms ‘green’ or earth-friendly’ to themselves. They think of it in terms of being practical, sensible and frugal. They were born and raised during the depression, when wasting resources wasn’t an option. Everything was used, reused, repurposed or recycled in some way out of necessity. They learned to grow as much of their own food and be as self sustaining as possible.
And that’s the philosophy by which I was raised. I grew up in both the US and UK. I suppose you’d say it was the countryside, although Manhattan or London weren’t that far away. My world has always been ‘green’; we grew our own fruit & veg and the apple orchards were just around the corner. No chemical fertilizers; we always had a big compost pile and there were horse stables right there. We never used a chemical to clean anything. With vinegar, water, lemon juice, salt and baking soda we always managed to clean everything. Plastic was something for which we had no use, and single use items of any sort were a waste of resources as well as money.
We traveled all over Europe and North America. For a weekend or fortnight, we were on a train and off we went. And somehow my parents had the ability to find volunteer work for us wherever we were. We eco-traveled before there was a formal name for it. It was fun as a kid, planting flowers or trees or cleaning up a park. I learned you always had to give back to wherever you were, and help keep it as you’d found it if not leave it a bit better for the next people. And it was a good way to learn another language and culture. Somehow I think that’s what my parents planned to have happen; they gave me the world and nature as my classroom, and I was responsible for its upkeep.
My first obvious tie in with environmentalism? I was six, hiking in the Black Forest with my father. He told me about how beautiful it had been years earlier - how he remembered it being before acid rain had taken such a toll on it. That’s all it took, and I’ve spent almost four decades working with environmental and conservation groups trying to improve how we, the human species, treat the planet and its inhabitants.
Whilst at university, I spent two turns as a volunteer on Capitol Hill with the House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, and I earned certification from the European Commission to consult in two languages. For what it’s worth to know me, I’m a self confessed adrenaline junkie, pranayama practitioner (yes, I’ve read the Bhagavad Gītā), hiker and trekker. Outdoors is where I enjoy being – the closer I am with nature the better. My favorite artists are Peter Paul Rubens and Pieter Bruegel. As for writers, political and otherwise, I prefer Eugène Ionesco, Honoré de Balzac, G.W.F. Hegel, Lao Tzu, Umberto Eco and Dr. Stephen Hawking. My hero has always been Leonardo da Vinci, although my favorite quote is often attributed to his Renaissance rival Michelangelo: “Ancora Imparo” or “I am still learning”. I am a lifelong organic gardener, and proud of my xeriscape landscape I’ve just completed. My gardens are a certified wildlife habitat and a true sanctuary for me at home.
By profession I am an electrical engineer because I love to invent and create. And it gives me the time and ability to continue my eco-travel and volunteer work with other environmentalists and conservationists around the world. I’m an avid photographer, and I give my photos to groups and individuals to help others understand what different places, peoples and ecosystems are like and why they need to be preserved and protected.
I’ve been an activist my entire life, and my volunteer work has taken me to every continent except Antarctica. I suspect I’ll be there at some point as well. Suffice to say, I’m a long time member, supporter, volunteer and advocate for and with a variety of environmental and conservation groups, both in the US and around the world. Over the years there have been both victories and defeats. I find that it’s a combination of patience and determination which have allowed me to continue to work and hope for a better world.
One area of concern to me over the past few years had been the failure of the existing organizations to involve and engage the younger generations. I first heard of ISF through Conservation International, and it appeared to fill that gap; in fact it seemed focused on involving the world’s youth. That’s why I got involved and support them. This earth, to which I have dedicated my life, will be theirs sooner than they think. We need them to be ready to take over that stewardship.
I still haven’t used a chemical to clean anything; I never found a use for such products. From how I do my marketing and the food I eat to the clothes I wear I choose organic and earth-friendly. And if anyone wants to know how to ‘green’ some part of their life, I’m happy to help them learn.