The Green Light
- By Duane Dahl, Creator of EarthLab
July 10, 2007. In writing this introductory column to coincide with the launch of EarthLab.com I am reminded of the humbling responsibility I've shouldered in supporting the efforts of the Alliance for Climate Protection and Live Earth, in focusing attention on an individual’s ability to lower ones impact on the planet we live in. I will do my best to be worthy of that responsibility. EarthLab.com is being offered as: "The first climate crisis community for people interested in raising awareness around the topic of climate change, leading a healthier, a more earth-friendly, and a more environmentally balanced lifestyle." Wow, that mission statement conceived by the marketing team is impressive, and again reminds me that I have a lot to live up to in fulfilling such an ambitious objective. The question is: what does it personally mean to me, and how did I arrive at the point of caring about my carbon footprint and my impact on the planet? Now, I fancy myself as a guy who loves his country, believes in personal responsibility and accountability, I lean a tad right as a moderate Republican, I love a good glass of red, a medium well steak, desserts, the Rolling Stones and my San Diego Chargers (I’m probably telling you too much here). Just nine short months ago, my wife was yelling at me for leaving my trash on the kitchen counter, behind the sink. You see, I could never quite decide which was "trash" and what was deemed recyclable. I relied on guessing mostly, and, if uncertain about the identity of some cast-off material, I could always stuff it in the bottom of the trash container, in hopes that my environmentally sensitive and lovely wife Cindy wouldn't uncover the material and accuse me of failing to put it in the recycle bin. Life had been so much easier before my nine-year-old son had learned to talk and didn't know that he was being blamed for a disposal error. Obviously, the green light hadn't yet been switched on in my head.
When trying to recall just when that green light was switched on, I think back to the summer of 2006, to the occasion of a trip to Lake Tahoe with my wife and two young boys. Ah, Lake Tahoe, the stunningly beautiful Lake Tahoe; it is one of my favorite places on Earth. I recall our Tahoe vacation as if it happened only yesterday. I especially remember boating out onto the crystalline water to go fishing with my family. Before we get too far along with my recollections, and because this is your first introduction to me, I don't want to give the readership here the wrong idea. I've really never been much of an outdoorsman, True, I love the idea of fishing, hiking, river rafting, and such vigorous outdoor activities-but I just have a hard time finding places to do those things where my Blackberry gets reception. (I know, I am truly pathetic - but that’s the first step right?) Nevertheless, I actually went fishing with my family - and was most excited to do so!
We had a great day on the water. We were all exhausted when we returned to the condo after that long day of fishing. (No, I have nothing to say about how many fish we really caught.) Once back into the reassuring, climate controlled comfort of the condo, my boys split off to their room to take a break from Dad. (Now, at age forty-ish, I've come to the realization that I'm not nearly as amusing as I once thought). Cindy and I decided to order "in" and relax and restore ourselves while watching a quality movie on Spectravision! So, both Cindy and I have veto power when deciding which movie we will watch. I usually get overruled when I suggest a movie that's a bit violent and features a lot of shooting, say, something like Pulp Fiction. Cindy always draws my veto card when she picks something like Pride and Prejudice. Even when nudged by Cindy to stay awake, I never much care whether Darcy and Elizabeth ever get together. What finally happened during this movie viewing episode is that we compromised on a couple of documentaries, Super Size Me and An Inconvenient Truth. My first inclination was to choose Super Size Me, junk food, eating too much - hey, I could relate. On second thought I decided that the consequence of a negative documentary about junk food might be cost me months of good Taco Bell Grande eating, as my wife would certainly be hounding me about my diet, now armed with "Super Size Me" factoids. So, I pushed for the Al Gore film, how bad could it be I thought? He has to be over the big "L" from 2000 by now, right? So I moved to close the deal - and pushed for An Inconvenient Truth. Honestly, I did secretly fear I would be in over my head with Mr. Gore's ramblings of his inconvenient truths. However, I ordered the triple chocolate cake with milk from room service, and hoped for the best.
The Green Light
Before going into my reaction to Gore's film, I should tell you a little about Cindy. Unlike me, she has been a bit of a tree-hugging environmentalist for years. Raised in Washington by an NRA card carrying, burly hunter of a father, Cindy was raised to enjoy the outdoors and loves fishing, camping, hiking, and gardening. She is also our families designated recycler. If it involves getting your hands dirty or touching the earth, Cindy's good at it.
Halfway through the film our mood (my mood and Cindy's mood) had definitely turned a bit somber. No, it wasn't a day out on the lake under the hot sun or the sinfully delicious cake that made the two of us a bit woozy. It was Gore's documentary that threw Cindy and me for a loop. We were shocked; I was shocked by the catastrophic imagery, by the science that appeared to explain the dire meaning of what was happening on Planet Earth. Could it be true? I found myself for the first time thinking, "My God, what happens if we really do screw this up." What happens if we're too busy with working our fifty to sixty hours a week and taking our feeble pleasure by sitting on our couches, stuffing ourselves with non-nutritious food, guzzling down a twelve pack of Dansani water each week, and passively accepting our entertainment from mindless American Idol culture? Why don't we stop, open our ears and minds take action, and at least attempt to do our part individually to slow or reverse the effects of climate change? Could it be that my sons and their sons will be stuck with trying to make a winning hand out of the lousy cards we've dealt them? That realization, those questions, triggered a turning point in my life and switched on the green light in my head. That realization marked the birth point of the EarthLab initiative.
Let it be so - our plans today for EarthLab.com, our plans over the next weeks, months, and years, involve a dynamic online presence on this site, allowing us to leverage the first of its kind Carbon Calculator that we have developed, and share our thoughts about climate change, conserving energy and ways all of us can lower our carbon footprint, and perhaps save some money along the way.
We'll try to cover everything on our site-the science relating to the causes of our environmental dilemma, the science of developing energy saving alternative fuels and technologies, opposing views, how to save money by conserving energy and the technologies devoted to developing products and services to counteract our less than beneficial occupancy on a verdant, hospitable planet; Let me be clear, however; I am not an expert, not an environmental scientist, no, not by a long shot. I am the guy who is curious, the guy who needs the intervention, the guy whose eco-style has been to go ripping down the freeway solo in his supercharged four hundred horsepower Range Rover. I am the thirty minute hot shower guy, the tech gadget freak who has a stock pile of Personal Digital Assistants dating back to when they actually called these things PDA’s, the discarded PDA's that his son uses as Lego blocks. As we continue our joint exploration of environmental awareness, I will simply be another student, willing, well meaning, and motivated-and, although a bit clueless, I am incredibly eager to figure out all of this climate change business - and save some money while conserving energy along the way! It’s important to note here to set expectations - will I give up my thirty minute hot showers, uh, probably not. However, that’s not what this is about to me. This is about personal decisions and managing your footprint. I will commit to do many things to dramatically lower my footprint, so I can enjoy one of the great things in life to me, a hot shower! I am not looking to move into a one bedroom adobe house powered by refried beans - and driving a Prius. I’ll leave those behavioral choices to Ed Begley Jr. and alike.
The Green Light
I have three hopes. First hope is that you will communicate with us at EarthLab, and allow us to do what we do best. Online, we can build anything you might envision. Tell us about it, and if it motivates the EarthLab community to make changes that will produce a beneficial effect on the planet, our team will digitally replicate the idea online. My second hope is that, having found EarthLab and our Carbon Calculator to be of value by enriching your life, you'll invite five of your friends, family, and coworkers to visit the EarthLab site and get their Carbon Footprint. My third hope is that we will inspire, educate, and activate millions of EarthLab members around the world, so that together we can begin to reverse or retard the effects of climate change, conserve energy and produce a cleaner environment. Further, I would like to prove my wife wrong when she says that I "will never get it" when it comes to recycling materials at home. I truly believe that recycling is not beyond my capabilities.
The EarthLab community is for you, regardless of the size of your footprint, your beliefs or party affiliations. I’m not much interested in how "left" they are and how "right" we are, we’ll leave that battle to cable television talking heads to battle out. This is what I can do, in my own way, within my world, at my pace. This is our gift to you, our present to a world that has allowed a wise-cracking kid from Southern California to go from sleeping on a bare concrete surface behind a steak house, to achieving unimaginable business success, with enough riches to buy any damn Lego Star Wars figure ever manufactured. To have such good fortune, and to be blessed with a loving family, a wonderful wife, beautiful boys, good friends, and incredibly acute taste buds, gives me the perspective to appreciate the gifts I've received for the luck of being a citizen in the right place, at the right time, and on the right planet. I owe a thank you to the millions who have supported our Internet communities over the years. I also need to thank the team members who have provided the quality work and technical know-how, drive and passion to make those Internet sites so successful. The best way to demonstrate my heartfelt thanks is to pay it forward, initiate payback in a way that potentially may benefit everyone who lives on our remarkable, one-of-a-kind planet.
We'll ask all members of the EarthLab community to share their life stories, their experiences of shifting to a green manner of living, and their tips and ideas for a more thoughtful exchange with the planet - and ways we can all conserve energy and save money along the way. Of course, while we're pursuing these lofty goals of leading a healthier, a more earth-friendly, and a more environmentally balanced lifestyle, we expect that we'll be having some fun along the way.
Please join us on EarthLab. Take the first step and spend three to four minutes to take the Carbon and Lifestyle Calculator. This is the early stage of a long journey. We have a lot to figure out, and we're really, really excited to get going! I am grateful that my green light has been switched on!
July 10, 2007
August, 2007 - In Search of the Dalai Lama
Click here to share
your Green Light Story
Click here to contact