This week, I’m not writing about building techniques or science. Instead, I’m being self-indulgent. But I hope it spurs readers to think about what green living really means.
I came to green building by a route that’s probably not uncommon. I grew up with a burning Cuyahoga River, with crude oil lapping the beaches of Santa Barbara, and with a burgeoning awareness that the brown haze visible over New York City, 70 miles from where we lived, was a bad thing. Hard on the heels of these issues came the energy crisis of the 1970s, Love Canal, and Three Mile Island. While we’ve addressed those particular problems to some degree or another, environmental degradation persists. The Housatonic River flows near where I live, its northern reaches seemingly pristine. The trout fishing is fine, I’m told, although it’s catch-and-release, and people are advised to not eat the fish because of PCBs dumped in the river back when it was legal to do so.
Even as a kid, it was obvious to me that humanity had made a major wrong turn.
In 8th grade, I met Wayne South, a teacher who remains a friend to this day. He brought my class outside to stargaze on winter evenings. He took us hiking through land spared from Tocks Island Dam, and digging in a local fossil bed. In short, he made science both real and fun. A local icon of the early 1970s environmental movement, Wayne had two side gigs: he ran a bike shop and he erected windmills. He introduced me to The Foxfire Books and Organic Gardening magazine, as well as Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Wendell Berry, John McPhee, and Edward Abbey.
Throughout my high-school years, I envisioned my adult self living a bearded hermit’s life…