(This biographical material was appended to the post above, but it was getting too long. Then I realized I was mostly just trying to list, and explain to myself, what all I'd done with my life to make me the very idiosyncratic person I am. So I moved most of it down to this second post. Again, read at your own risk.)
In 1985, after nearly seven years' service, I left the UK's Royal Air Force (RAF) in protest
policies of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. I was one of a handful
of servicemen who did this during the mid-1980s. A particular catalyst
was the women's peace camp and anti-nuclear protests at RAF Greenham Common. In particular at the
time I was concerned about Reagan's placement of intermediate and short
range nuclear missiles on British soil, but not controlled by British
authorities. I was also concerned about Thatcher's economic policy,
particularly the outrageous attacks she ordered on northern and mining communities.
Those difficult days were the beginning of my development as a
political economist, even though it was several years before I entered
the academy to formally study the issues.
I remain in close contact with my unit and former colleagues, the Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Service, through their association. Of all the worlds so-called "Special Forces," there
is none other that I would be more content to be associated with.
leaving the military, I spent a year at the Findhorn eco-commune in
Scotland, with mixed results. In particular, I worked with the Findhorn children and regional under-privileged youth through the Findhorn Foundation Youth Project.
Although this loving but muddled intentional community was a safe place to land after such a difficult experience, it was also very isolated from the real work problems I wanted to work on. As a result, I developed, among other things, a sense of
how cults work and of how religion holds power over people's minds.
(These concerns led in part to my eventual PhD dissertation about
religious environmentalism in the United States, particularly religious
environmental attempts to address climate change. But I'm jumping ahead
in the narrative.)
I then emigrated to the US in 1986,
and bummed around the west as a mountain guide and rescue technician,
worked in various other western resource-based jobs, including short
stints in a mine, a timber mill, and so on, and two years helping to manage a boarding school for troubled youth, before finally beginning
attending the University of Montana at the age of 28 in fall 1989.
A Late Bloomer.
an undergraduate student in Zoology, I worked for Dr. Alan McQuillan at Wilderness
Institute, part of the University of Montana Forestry School. I helped out with various conservation, wildlife, and wilderness projects, including the Cabinet Mountains Fisher Reintroduction Project, and was the coordinator of the Institute's field programs, a wonderful job that gave full reign to several of the deeper threads in my life. I was also
an Earth First! activist and journalist during the early 1990s, based
in Missoula, MT, and
published, with my ex-wife Beverly Cherner, several issues of Earth First!
My first graduate school was the UMT Forestry School, where I studied economic development and sustainability in northern Japan and the Highlands of Scotland. I then went to the Maryland Policy School for six years for a PhD. I did graduate research work under some
fairly hi-falutin' academics and survived. One factor which may be a
strength or a weakness is a breadth of influences. I'm not a
name-dropper, but, for example, I took classes in economics from, and
was mentored by, both Herman Daly and Carmen Reinhart. If you know anything about economics, you will understand that this is an interesting combination, to say the least.
Interesting as in the (apocryphal) Chinese curse.
PhD was partly funded by a NOAA Sea Grant Fellowship, and I was
involved with a number of different social science research projects,
mostly under the tutelage of Dr. Mark Sagooff and Mr. David Wasserman,
JD, an odd-couple research team that worked together for many years
during the 1990s with Sea Grant and EPA funding. The one thing David and Mark do have in common is that they are both Jewish, and bring that
faith's ancient and abiding humanitarianism to their work. I sometimes
refer to this period, tongue in cheek, as my "rabbinical" education, and
value it highly. Towards the end of the PhD experience I was able to
spend two semesters at the University of Georgia's Institute of Ecology,
where I worked under some interesting academics on some new problems
and was able to test out my teaching skills, another valuable
Altogether, I have degrees from the University of
Montana in Biology (BA) and Resource Conservation (MS) (the latter from
the Forestry School), and from the University of Maryland (PhD) in
Environmental Policy Analysis.
I came to Unity College in the year 2000 as
temporary Assistant Professor, while still an ABD PhD candidate.
Assigned to general education classes in sustainability and the
economics and policy classes, I soon found outlets for the other threads
in my life, particularly through the Unity College search and rescue
team, and through the engineering work associated with the college
campus sustainability programs.
I enjoy Unity College students, who are
generally unspoiled young people from practical backgrounds, concerned
about the environment and social and political issues. They prefer
practical solutions and practical education, for the most part, and
respond as well to being outdoors and doing things with their hands as
they do to being in class thinking about things. We get along. I was
also the college's first sustainability coordinator. I'm now a senior
faculty member, a "full professor," and a faculty leader. Our efforts
over the years to make the college an example of sustainability are now
garnering the attention of the world's media, and, as one of the people
responsible for these efforts,
I'm quite proud of our small college's
sustainability efforts -- I call it "The Little College that Could", and indeed, former Unity College president Mitchell Thomashow will
shortly publish a book about our experiences in campus sustainability.
formal research area is now in renewable energy planning, climate
mitigation and related quantitative analysis, and my teaching is in
sustainability, economics, and renewable energy.
a good deal of published research, and give a lot
of formal presentations. Most recently I've been contributing in the
area of pedagogy relating to sustainability, particularly quantitative
analysis. Students are often terrified of math, and their ability to
understand climate change and economics suffers as a result. I've been
thinking about, and experimenting with, different ways to address this
problem, and have had some success, publishing and presenting on the results at various conferences.
Related to this very broad and eclectic background, in an ongoing
internal research project, I try to reconcile Keynesian economics with
ecological economics in very practical terms, and hope soon to take a
sabbatical to write my thinking up as a short book. I recently gave a conference presentation on this topic, but the majority of my writings, what I've had time to do, are published in this Annex to my main blog.
also have a moderately significant technical research project in wind
energy measurement and modeling, until recently funded by the federal
government and the state of Maine. As a result I maintain a repository
of Maine wind data for use in the public interest and provide wind
energy analysis for regional and local planning.
I use my blog, Sustainability Thought and Deed, to unite research, teaching and and praxis
as seamlessly as I can. When you dabble in as many areas as I do, and
teach for a very small college that repeatedly asks you to take on new
roles and new subject areas, you have to find a way to bring it all
I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in January 2014. This is a minor honor in the UK. The RSA is a venerable institution (est. 1754) for academics and practitioners from industry and commerce that are interested in societal problems, and in particular how they can be addressed using science and technology. You can read about it here.