This is part 2 of 3 of an interview with Steve King. Steve is the creator of the website The Green Geek
BILL: What exactly is meant by “geek”, and what qualifies you as a GREEN Geek?
STEVE: Well, being a vegetarian I definitely don’t meet the qualifications for the literal meaning of the word! But seriously, all my life I’ve been focused on intellectual matters. I was reading Hardy Boys novels by age 5, and when my parents bought a computer in the early 1980s I was absolutely fascinated by it. I soon had my own computer, and haven’t looked back. I love to read, and I’m absolutely addicted to the internet, I love having information at my fingertips, and the ability to share that information with other people around the world. I’m also an avid reader of almost anything I can get my hands on, although I prefer science fiction and non-fiction, especially personal development books and any technology books relating to my career path. As far as the “green” aspect, that’s something I’ve been asked many times before. During my final 2 years of school I worked as a computer service technician for the school’s IT department. I studied environmental engineering, there was one person there who was studying mechanical engineering (who also took programming as his major was focused on robotics), but everyone else was in the computer engineering program. There was one coworker who I didn’t initially get along with, but we grew to become friends over the time we worked together. He was quite the interesting character; he was the only student technician to ever lose a whole computer, he decided to take up smoking as a hobby, and he’s also the only Muslim I know whose favorite food is a bacon and sausage sandwich! One of the things he loved to say to me whenever I pointed out that his Coke can is recyclable and he shouldn’t throw it in the garbage can (right beside the recycling box) was “I saw a tree outside this morning, why don’t you go hug it?” He’d also repeatedly ask me why I was working to repair computers, since environmentalists hate technology. I know there are some hardcore environmentalists who are anti-technology, but I happen to love technology…provided it’s used the right way. I don’t want a future where we all live in little huts and have no technology; I want a future with majestic energy efficient buildings, with automated transit systems that take us where we want to go with speed and privacy. I want cities that have beautiful parks and structures that are built to enhance nature, not destroy it. I want computers that can talk to us, I want robots to be a part of our society, I want advanced medical technology to keep us healthy until the end of our lives, I want a society that truly produces no waste, and operates as efficiently as possible. I also want clean air, clean water, and healthy natural food to eat. And I want my children to be able to enjoy the same things, and their children as well. If that doesn’t qualify me as a green geek, then I’m not sure what will.
BILL: I’m an avid reader as well. in regards to books, what types of science fiction do you read? Do you have any favorite authors? Also, what are some of the geeky/environmental books you’ve read?
STEVE: Well, my favorite genre is science fiction, although within that I’m most fascinated by the cyberpunk genre and anything relating to transhumanism. One of my favorite books in that area is Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan. I also really enjoyed Eon and Moving Mars, by Greg Bear. These books all include the concept of transhumanism, with neural implants and ubiquitous nanotechnology. Many of these books look at nature as being something to be conquered, something to be improved upon. I look at it in a slightly different way, I believe that we can have spaceships, and little robots that swim in our blood to repair cellular damage, and computers in our head that do all sorts of wonderful things.. and still have nature. We don’t need to give up the natural world to enjoy the benefits of technology, provided we focus on the right technologies. Science fiction gives us a glimpse of what might be possible, maybe even a goal to strive for as many engineers and scientists did after growing up with Star Trek. Think that science fiction doesn’t influence reality? Look at how many people have cell phones, PDAs, and devices that can be written on like paper. These all existed in the realm of science fiction before they became reality. I have a cell phone, a PDA and I’m using a tablet PC right now. Science fiction can show us what’s possible, and some of the more dystopian ones can also show us the dangers of what can happen if we don’t consider the consequences of our actions. As far as non-fiction, the book that really started me on my current path is “From Eco-Cities to Living Machines“. From here I branched out into other books that made me think outside the box. Other really fantastic ones were Cradle to Cradle, Biomimicry, The Natural Step, Natural Capitalism and The Ecology of Commerce, The Secret Life of Plants, and The China Study. Each of these books taught me something and helped shape my view of the environment and our place in it. I also enjoy reading Ray Kurzweil’s books, including his recent Fantastic Voyage which touts the benefits of organic food and avoiding environmental pollutants as a way to promote our health, until technology has progressed to the point where we can repair our bodies and even upgrade them, with the use of nanotechnology and cybernetics.
BILL: With the obvious need for renewable energy sources, what do you make of the involvement of government? Not any particular government, but governments in general.
STEVE: It’s quite evident that so far the average person isn’t interested in energy conservation as an altruistic gesture, and people tend to have an aversion to change especially if they believe they will be deprived of something. Before even looking at alternative energy sources, actual demand must be looked at, and that means energy conservation. Government (USA and Canada) programs like Energy Star provide efficiency ratings for consumer appliances to make it easy for people to purchase energy efficient items. This standard covers everything from refrigerators to washing machines to computers, and is designed to show the energy (and therefore financial) savings with these products. The concept of renewable resources is just as relevant to financial matters as it is to environmental situations. In financial terms, non-renewable resources like oil and coal are like spending your savings, whereas renewable resources such as biomass, wind, solar and tidal energy, are akin to spending profit; the capital is still there. Government programs to promote renewable energy are vital, because they have the money to back up the necessary research into new technology, but also because they have the authority to change laws to make the programs succeed. 20 years ago governments got together to address the problem of the growing ozone hole, and agreed to fix it. Today CFCs have largely been banned, and the ozone hole will slowly repair itself. If today’s governments applied the same enthusiasm to phasing out non-renewable fuel sources, the world could be powered entirely by renewable resources within a matter of decades. In order for this to happen, grants must continue to be given to alternative energy research, wind farms and other facilities must be built, and a carbon tax must be levied on the heaviest polluters and oil consumers, This will result in a shift to renewable energy far faster than even the biggest Greenpeace rally, or the catchiest bumper sticker.
This interview will be concluded in part 3 of 3.
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