Richard Caputo – Passion for people & planet

Richie tell me some things about you.

I grew up in NYC and loved my little village (one block in the Bronx on Croes Ave between Watson and I forget). I was either playing stickball in the street or being disciplined by the nuns at the local catholic school. I was trained as an engineer and finally left NYC at 21 to see the world.

Next stop Pittsburgh, I worked on building a nuclear rocket that was to carry humans to Mars, wound up in southern California, was busy helping send spacecraft all over the solar system and dove into the first attempt to deal with our energy “situation”. Got involved in renewable energy from roof-top hot water systems to gigantic orbital solar power plants. Helped start the Solar Energy Research Institute in Golden Colorado (yes, the Coors beer place) and worked with Carter’s people fashioning the first and so far the last, National Solar Energy Plan.

Met Carol, my love mate. What a difference!
Here in Julian our home burned down in the Cedar fire storm after a prolonged drought. We built a new house that won the SANDEE (energy excellence) award. Writing a book on energy called Hitting the Wall.

Your spirit of adventure is so much a part of you, tell me more about that.

Spirit of adventure? Never really thought about it. But I guess your right. I always seemed to think that everything I was considering was a little bigger than life. Something to look at differently and to be enjoyed. Adventure is more than something like joining a Lewis and Clark type of expedition. It can be almost anything you try to do.

You have a passion for helping the planet, where does that come from?

I know we all have a different sensitivity to environmental concerns. For some of us, there is no such thing as an environmental impact requiring mitigation. The environment can recover from any insult. Whatever the environmental problem is, it is just normal stuff that has always happened that needs either adoption to a changing environment or an action program to be mounted by clever and creative entrepreneurial people. Others see environmental problems and say why bother — it is not possible to do anything about it anyway. Some see environment problems almost everywhere and see it as the result of equity imbalances in the way we do “business”. The incessant need for growth and greed are the core problems to both inequity in the world and selling the planet down the river. Finally, there are those who think there are real environmental problems that better planning, better organization and new rules and regulations can deal with. These are the main discernible voices that I hear around me. Where do I fit in the cacophony of values and views? I hear all these voices and think they all have some truth. They all need to be part of what we do.

I do think that I do see environment problems especially when scientific studies expose the basis for the problems and the likely impacts. This is especially true of climate change where our collective actions are driving the planet to a new planetary climate regime. One that is likely to be very disruptive. So we have a very energic global economic engine that produce an inequitable distribution of wealth but as a byproduct, is doing a fair job of raising millions out of poverty. With exponential growth of population, energy and standard of living (consumption), there had to be point when a finite planet would finally reach some limit. It appears that this limit, it the ability of the atmosphere to absorb carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. So what do you do when the basic economic/industrial processes that we have evolved as a species is threatening the ability of the planet to support all of us?

I guess I care that we are on the brink of really messing things up. This isn’t right. We have no right to screw things up so badly. I think that we are causing the problem out of our cleverness in developing the amazing global economic system and I also believe that we are the solution. All we have to do is look up, figuratively and literally. Look up and make the necessary changes so that the planet will be able to continue to work for all of us. That is, I am sure that we are able to use our cleverness to operate an increasing effective global economic system that functions to create wealth and a better standard of living that goes beyond just consumption. That properly considers the ability of the planet to function and yet meets our material needs.

Part of the solution is technical innovation and changing the way we do buildings, energy conversion and transportation. Part of the solution is to look beyond material needs and to balance this with spiritual and human values that exist in other domains than material. We need to evolve a better balance that reflects all our needs and to not trash the planet. So I do have passion for the planet and the people on the planet. I just can’t believe we will mindlessly destroy the only planet we have in a seemingly mad rush to get a bigger car, bigger house and bigger waistline. I refuse to believe this!

Wow, lots of passion in many areas and on many levels.
Thanks for sharing I look forward to your book.
Penny

Check out www.solar-aid.org

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