Joel Gordes: "Treat it as a national security issue"

Another in a series of miniprofiles of sustainability-minded people who are working to reduce humankind’s footprint on the planet. They're "mini" not only because they're short, but because all the questions are 10 words or less, and the answers are requested to match.

JOEL GORDES, 62, West Hartford, Conn. Energy consultant, Environmental Energy Solutions

What do you do? “I work on all sorts of energy-related issues, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, climate change and the insurance industry, and energy security.”

Green epiphany: “Flying missions over Vietnam. I was an Air Force officer flying unarmed reconnaissance, and the land looked like the craters of the moon in places. Then in 1972, after I came home, I happened to read an article in Scientific American about the cratering of Southeast Asia. That was my moment.”

Green hero:Dr. Albert E. Burke. He was a Yale professor who was the first to use television as an educational medium working at the connection of the environment, our resources, and our freedoms. He came publicly before Rachel Carson, before Barry Commoner, before Buckminster Fuller.”

In Boston Home, local sourcing

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You can approach sustainability from a number of directions, and for the current issue of Boston Home magazine, I came at it from two of them.

I spoke with three product providers that make their products with the ethics of recycle and reuse, and all three are in New England, making their use locally more sustainable than the same or similar goods from, say, Fiji.

It's a single-page presentation.

So where have I been?

This is inside blogball, but one of the aspiring blogger's worst sins is omission — keeping a steady stream of posts coming, so that whenever anyone ever comes back, there's something new to read. Imagine if you got the newspaper one day and there was nothing in it. Or even a newsletter. Oh, wait: If you're a regular reader, you don't have to imagine.

"Green" fatigue

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My sister in Jerusalem sent me this link from Lake Superior State University, which (apparently) has been issuing lists of words for 34 years that should be banished for overuse. This year, the top two are "green" and "carbon footprint" or "carbon offsetting."

To which I say, what do you want to call it instead?

The list is composed via nominations made throughout the year, so this does express the people's voice. But "it" needs a moniker and I haven't thought or heard of anything better.

A call to civil disobedience

I may not get there with you, but a coalition of activists will gather at a coal plant near Capitol Hill on March 2 to carry the word that coal is dirty, unhealthful, and completely tied to the old, unsustainable way. 

I got word of the action from Bill McKibben, the author and activist, via Project Laundry List, of which he is an advisor. Here's what his missive said, in part:

Paul Eldrenkamp: "Not as hypocritical as I used to be"

Somewhat akin to love of one's children, I like everything I publish, but some posts are more equal than others, and this installment in my series of miniprofiles of sustainability-minded people is just terrific, I think. (Please note: I attribute this to the subject, not to me; this ain't braggin'.) To recap, the profiles are "mini" not only because they're short, but because all the questions are 10 words or less, and the answers are requested to match.

PAUL ELDRENKAMP, 51, Newton Owner, Byggmeister Inc., a residential remodeling contractor

Green epiphany: “About 6 years ago, when I realized that no one was keeping score in terms of household energy consumption.”

Green hero:Linda Wigington of Affordable Comfort (ACI). She initiated the North American Thousand Home Challenge (pdf available here), reaching out to people across the country to do deep energy retrofits and then to share the information we learn.”

A naturalist who doesn't love the outdoors

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In addition to my continued opening to the biomimicry movement, I'm presently reading "Naturalist," E.O. Wilson's autobiography — I was moved, in part, to pick it up recently because I knew that he would be closing the GreenBuild conference last month with Janine Benyus, the biologist who is credited with coining the term biomimicry and who, with Dayna Baumeister, founded the Biomimicry Guild.

Before they sat together, Wilson and Benyus each addressed the very large crowd separately, and she opened her remarks remembering the "microwilderness" behind her house in suburban New Jersey, and how she used to spend as much time as she could out there, observing and communing with the organisms who lived there. Very quickly, she conveyed her love for that place, and the sorrow and offense she felt when the bulldozers came to start phase two of her subdivision.

The story dovetailed (note bio allusion!) very neatly with the tales Wilson tells in his book at greater length, the substance of which he acknowledged when they came together on the stage couch. Both these people went out of doors and fell in lifelong love. I can't relate. I played out of doors too, climbing on rock faces and playing war in the brush in places that also have since fallen to the dozers' blades, but I somehow missed the forest for the trees. They were just there, and so were the animals — musta been. But they didn't capture me.

Sustainable design award

The Boston Society of Architects and and AIA New York Chapter are looking to honor examples of sustainable design — anything that provides "a basic level of comfort for all while repairing and protecting local and global ecosystems for future generations," according to the BSA. "'Designers' in this context includes anyone involved in the physical design of places or buildings, including architects, planners, landscape architects, engineers, and allied design professionals."


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