Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Looking Back on Earth Day - Where my passion for sustainability came from (repost)

Today, for Earth Day, we are repeating a post from Father's Day 2010. The post reflects on where my environmental ways comes from and gives a big tip-of-the-hat to my dad, Roger Haas. Today would have been his 90th birthday, and he was certainly the first environmentalist I knew. Another excuse for the reposting is that since I wrote the original, I found a picture of the windmill he built in the backyard.

Why am I (philosophically) green?

My dad, Roger Haas, who died in May of 2004, was a very quiet man. He was unexpressive to the extreme, virtually never, to my recollection, teaching anything explicitly, yet he taught me a great deal. Most of his teaching was by example.

It gives me the willies when a friend or colleague leaves an engine running while chatting in a driveway or parking lot. That comes directly from Dad. He got the willies too.

He built things -- there was the solar thermal panel that pre-heated hot water in the form of copper pipe painted black inside a glass covered box leaned up against the souther side of our house (the inside was also painted black). There was a windmill in the backyard made from oil drums cut down the middle. I don't think that ever actually generated any useable power as was the goal, but he did get it to spin in the wind.

Dad's windmill, still under construction.

He turned things off and made sure we did too. Lights left on in empty rooms were one of a few things that made him visibly irritated, and we knew not to run water while we brushed our teeth.

My siblings and I also knew that little scraps of metal or wood, or interesting pieces of broken things could be made to serve some later purpose.

These things have been passed on -- one brother has a geothermal heating system. I'm not the only one of my siblings who mows the lawn with a reel-type mower (Dad used one too) and has insulated his or her home far more than the average American.

I know Dad did these things largely because he couldn't stand to see things pointlessly wasted. What good does it do leave a light on in an empty room? Why should I use natural gas to heat my water when the sun can do it free? Why would we want to squander our resources? Thanks, Dad, for passing this along to me.

What makes you green?

Don Duggan-Haas