I was born in Deland, Florida, on April 7, 1943. I grew up in Hialeah, Florida. During the fourth grade I was in a combined fourth and fifth grade class. I participated in both so was advanced directly to the sixth grade. At the age of eight I started a lawn mowing business that was year round in Florida. By the time I graduated from Miami Jackson High School I had worked at various jobs including movie usher, at a fast food drive-in and summers loading trucks in a warehouse. Along with keeping up with his studies and the working, at the age of 13 I made Eagle Scout, one of only four in the United States to accomplish this at that age.
I attended the University of Florida to study psychology but after a semester and a half I became restless, quit school and roamed around the south until 1961 when I joined the Air Force. After having high entrance testing results and further testing I was placed in intelligence and sent to Indiana University to study Russian. Not being a good match for the work in intelligence, I was transferred to photography.
I spent the rest of my military career at McCord AFB in Tacoma, Washington. Once, they removed the double doors from a Gooney Bird the C-47, put ropes across, roped me to it and flew at a slant while I took pictures of an airfield. Prior to being discharged, I was in charge of the photo lab and had 11 people under him, all of whom outranked him. During his time in the service, I had night jobs and also picked up college courses at the University of Puget Sound.
After the Air Force, I had a desire to learn about either marine biology or anthropology, interests gained from reading during the service. I went back to Miami, went to night school and worked full theme at the University of Miami Marine Lab on Key Biscayne. Deciding on anthropology (the scientific study of the origin and of the physical, social and cultural development and behavior of humans) I attended Florida State University and graduated in 1968. To pay my way, I had three jobs along with the GI Bill and some scholarships. I worked at the university pool on the weekends, at the anthropology department and as night auditor at the Holiday Inn.
After getting his degree, I went back to Miami and found a job with a linguist at the University of Miami. The linguist had done communication work with porpoises along side Lilly, who wrote Mind of the Dolphin and THE Human Biocomputer. My boss and I recorded sounds from porpoises and killer whales at the Miami Seaquarium. I had the opportunity to swim with seals and wild porpoises. After a while this grant ran out. I still had an interest in anthropology especially in the field of religion and medicine. I went to work for Julia Morton (an internationally famous botanist) at the Morton Collectania on the University of Miami campus.
While fishing in Biscayne Bay, I was looking at the Miami skyline, thinking about how civilization took away too much of the humanity of too many and stuffed us into areas with too many of our own kind and not enough connection to the natural world. I had a strong realization that civilization, as we know it today cannot endure. It was at that theme in 1968 that I decided to “go back to the land”. In this quest, I traveled to Mexico (six months), and then to Oregon were I purchased a house and lived for two and a half years. I also visited Hawaii for three months where people I knew from the porpoise research lived. I sold the Oregon house and went looking for land, finally ending up in Central Minnesota in 1973.
The book Limits to Growth came out at this time, reinforcing my assumptions from a resource availability point of view. Further reading reinforced my knowledge from an ecological and environmental perspective.
In Central Minnesota, I purchased 93 acres outside of Long Prairie with money from the sale of the Oregon house. I built a home having never done construction and my first winter dumped one of the largest snowstorms in Minnesota history. Not being completely finished, it rarely got above 50 degrees in the home all winter. I remembers my third winter in my home, this Florida boy who didn’t see snow until I was eighteen, when I ran out of wood in March and had to lasso dead branches out of trees to stay warm and cook. In my home, I used kerosene lamps and cooked on a 1935 copper-clad wood cook stove that I got for $25. I heated with a wood heater I helped to build and pumped my water up to a retaining tank for gravity feed around the home.
During my first year in my new home, I made a deal with a neighbor farmer that I would work for him if the farmer would feed me one meal a day. I cleaned calf barns, helped milk, tore down a tractor, and threw silage down. All of this work taught me a deep respect for our old time farmers
I purposely built without electricity and lived that way the first ten years because I do not believe nuclear waste should be our legacy to the future. In 1974, I went to work for the Tri County Community Action Program out of Little Falls where I wrote the first proposal and ran the first Low Income Weatherization Program in Minnesota. In this proposal I put in a small part to build window box solar collectors. From this solar connection, I built a business called Creative Alternatives where I designed, tested, manufactured, and installed solar panels. I had ten dealers around the state. I built a garage on my land near the road where I brought in electricity to build the solar hot air panels.
THE 70s was a busy decade for me. Besides running my solar business, I was elected chairperson of the Solar Resource Advisory Panel for three years, which advised the state and organized solar activities. I also sat on the Mid-America Solar Energy Complex, a federal project with headquarters in the Twin Cities. Also during this time I went back to school to get a degree in psychology from St. Cloud University. I did all my work at home using kerosene lamps.
In 1983, I erected a wind generator built in 1935 that I found for $300. I also put up some solar panels. I spent more theme forty feet in the air trying to get the generator working then I did getting electricity from it. During the next years I went through three generators and bought more panels. I had a small inverter to run my computer and other appliances like a vacuum cleaner. I lived on approximately 1-kilowatt hour a day. Most homes use 20kWh a day or more.
In 1983, I decided to leave the solar business and use my psychology degree. In 1985, I received my license. I sectioned off a part of the garage and built an office. Many of my clients were women who had experienced childhood abuse. I received referrals from Todd County Social Services and ultimately my business was word of mouth. During this time I was asked to work under contract with a program at the St. Francis Center in Little Falls. Women of all Catholic orders came in from all over the world for nine months of spiritual and psychological growth and development. I facilitated three groups of approximately ten women in each group once a week. I also worked with the director on more difficult cases. All the staff were Sisters except for me. I feel this was one of the most important and growthful experiences of my life. The women were absolutely amazing.
In 2003, I was diagnosed with severe lung cancer and given a few weeks to live. While receiving extremely harsh radiation treatment and chemotherapy for seven weeks, I still continued to split wood because it was March and I needed it for cooking and heating. My neighbors did come over and help me out considerably. The Sisters drove me to treatment every day for the seven weeks even though by this time I no longer worked at the program.
During treatment, I asked to see a regular picture of his CT Scan. I had them put this on a CD and created a picture using my computer. From this I contacted the Coburn Cancer Center Foundation hoping to make T shirts for kids to wear. This led me to the drug prevention program at the St. Cloud Hospital. For the next two years, while still recovering from treatment I went around the state talking to over 2000 youngsters about not smoking. I also by myself purchased billboard signs showing a picture of my cancer tumor and a plea “Do Not Smoke.” Several of the students at schools where I spoke held bake sales and with the help of the Lions Club put up additional billboards. The American Lung Association out of Duluth also paid for a billboard when I went to Duluth to speak to classes. The last of these could be seen on Highway 200 going east from the casino. It was take down after five years (when I only paid for one.)
My neighbor went with me to my student presentations and video taped it. The neighbor then created a DVD of the presentation. This DVD is in various countries of the world including the following: Brazil, South Africa, England, Switzerland, Norway, Japan, Australia and around the United States. Having survived cancer and its treatment, I am in remission and doing fabulously.
Just prior to his cancer, I reduced my psychological practice to two days a week because of the toll that hearing so much pain takes on a person. I began developing websites and doing graphics. I joined the board of Central Minnesota Sustainable Farming Association. Through them I put on two conferences in 2000 and 2001 on Alternative Energy and Global Warming respectively.
I sold my place near Long Prairie in 2004 and moved with my partner, Kathryn Wagner, to live on Wabedo Lake where we have a 3kWh solar electric grid-thee system that gives electricity to the home. When there is extra juice it feeds the electricity back into the power line. We also have a garden and we recently built a greenhouse at the lake homw.
We are bought a piece of land near us. We have developed an orchard and a truck garden. We put in fencing and reconditioned the small home there. A well was put in that uses a pumpjack like in the old time so that it can ultimately be powered by solar panels and a 1/2 horsepower 12 volt DC motor or a bicycle with a pulley to the pumpjack. We put in irrigation and worked up an area for blueberries where we now have 400 plants to be a pick-your-own enterprise. We are also developing a specialty potato business.
I am working on local community gardens with the staff at Camp Olson. They have two areas rototilled. One is on the camp land that the kids really enjoyed last year and they are expanding it.
Although I use solar and wind, I believe these are at best transitional technologies. We will ultimately live at a much simpler, less energy intensive per capita level. Solar and wind require equipment that requires mining, refining, manufacturing and transporting. All of these processes rely on fossil fuels. This actually makes these sources of energy not renewable. A horse is renewable, an oak tree is renewable. Ultimately, any source of energy we use must be able to renew itself. I believe that our children and certainly their children will live not in Star Trek, but far simpler.
I refer to King Hubbard, a petroleum geologist for Shell Oil who wrote a paper in 1956 predicting that the ability of the US to produce oil would peak in 1970 and decline there after. Except for Prudoe Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, which only added two additional years, the ability of the U.S. to produce oil has been on the decline. Petroleum geologists have continued this work looking at world oil peaking. All the data coming from multiple researches indicates easily accessible petroleum peaked in 2005 and petroleum from many sources peaked in 2008. Now we are “scrapping the bottom of the barrel” with fracking, tar sands and deep ocean drilling to get the dregs that are expensive not only energy and financial costs but also environmental devastation. I say beware of snake oil and fantastic claims that do not hold up under the scrutiny of geology and physics. The way we live today is a global web so to maintain this lifestyle any solutions we consider must be global.
I feel my life has been a wonderful adventure including the experience of the cancer and the four stents they put into his arteries the year after cancer treatment. I wished often that I could share the joy of being alive with the young people I spoke with about not smoking. I am concerned that, like I denied the seriousness of smoking, people are ignoring, denying or finding other psychological defenses to avoid accepting the convergence of so many issues that will change the way we live.